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Ideas that work: Strategic Planning 101

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Rosita Bradham

Rosita Bradham

Rosita Bradham

In today’s economic climate, more and more nonprofits are looking for tools to help guide them through an uncertain future.

Developing a strategic plan can help organizations assess where they are today and build a vision for where they want to be.

Before you jump into your plan, there are some basic principles of strategic planning you should keep in mind:

  • Identify key stakeholders. Your supporters are your greatest resource.
  • Identify key supporters and engage them in your planning process. You are likely to uncover innovative ideas and resources. Involving your staff members at all levels in the planning process is also very important. By gathering and incorporating their ideas into the plan, they will likely feel more engaged in bringing the vision to life.
  • Create realistic and achievable goals. Focus on outcomes, and integrate all activities toward achieving clearly understood and measurable directions/strategies.
  • Be adaptable and flexible. Your plan should serve as a guide; it is important to check in on a regular basis to update/refresh it.

Building your plan

The preparation of a strategic plan is multi-step process defining your organization, analyzing your environment, and building goals, objectives, strategies and steps for implementation.

Define your organization by identifying its values, vision, and mission.

Your organization’s values are deeply-held beliefs in which stakeholders hold in the highest regard.

They should answer the question of “why” your organization exists.

The vision statement should be a clear and compelling view of what your organization will become.

When stakeholders of your organization read your vision statement, they should feel a strong desire to help achieve that vision.

The mission statement defines your organization’s philosophy, focus and direction.

It is typically 20 words or less and answers the questions: Who are you? Who/what do you represent? Who do you serve? What do you as an organization?

  • Analyze your environment. Identifying your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, also called SWOT analysis, can help identify ways to minimize the affect of weaknesses in your organization while maximizing your strengths.
  • Identify goals. Strategic goals are statements of what you wish to achieve over the period of the strategic plan. Goals will set the direction of the organization through the plan, so they should be quantifiable, consistent, realistic and achievable.
  • Set objectives. Each goal has an objective and indicators. The objective sets the “what” of planning and should relate to the expectations and requirements of all the stakeholders.
  • Identify strategies. Strategies are the “how” of planning – how each objective is to be achieved through specific programs, activities, operations and organizational structure.
  • Implement the plan. The plan should include timelines, deadlines, objectives and resources needed throughout the implementation. Once the plan is in motion, you should constantly solicit feedback from your stakeholders and monitor its progress.

Revisit your strategic plan at least twice a year to make sure you are on the right path to where you want to be in the future.

Refresh the plan as needed with new priorities, and remember to celebrate your success.


Rosita Bradham is principal consultant for Blackbaud.

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