December 11, 2022
Strategic Planning for Nonprofits: How to create a roadmap for success
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As a nonprofit, every decision you make is important. Your resources are limited, so it's crucial to use them in the best way possible. That's where strategic planning comes in. 

Strategic planning allows you to create a roadmap for success that will help your nonprofit reach its goals. In this blog post, we discuss the steps involved in creating a strategic plan for your organization, as well as examples of how other nonprofits have used strategic planning to achieve their goals.

1. What is strategic planning and why do nonprofits need it?

Relying on strategic planning is crucial to ensure that you’re using all your resources effectively and achieving your goals. Without a clear plan, your team can quickly spread themselves too thin and lose sight of the most important objectives. 

Strategic planning is a process that organizations use to: 

  • Set goals
  • Identify priorities
  • Create a roadmap for achieving their mission

A well-executed strategic plan can help a nonprofit to stay focused and accountable, making it more likely to achieve its goals. Additionally, strategic planning can help nonprofits secure funding by demonstrating to donors that they have a clear vision for how their money will be used.

2. The benefits of having a roadmap for success

Running a successful nonprofit organization requires a clear roadmap for success:

Outline goals and objectives

By outlining your goals and objectives, you can ensure that everyone involved in the organization is on the same page and working towards the same clear goals. 


Track progress & identify potential roadblocks

A well-designed roadmap will also help you to track progress and identify any potential roadblocks along the way. Additionally, potential donors and investors will be more likely to support an organization that has a clear plan for success. 

By having a roadmap in place, you can increase your chances of achieving your goals and making a positive impact in your community.


Example of a successful roadmap:

A roadmap is an essential tool for any nonprofit organization. It provides a clear path for your team to follow and sets achievable goals. 

A successful roadmap should be: 

  • Realistic
  • Flexible
  • Achievable
  • Reviewed and updated on a regular basis

One example of a successful roadmap is United Way's Roadmap to Change. Their roadmap was developed in response to the challenges faced by nonprofits in the wake of the recession. 

It outlines four key areas that should be addressed in order to ensure the long-term success of nonprofits: 

  • Financial sustainability
  • Customer engagement
  • Organizational capacity
  • Public policy

The roadmap also sets out specific goals and action items for each of these areas.

The United Way's Roadmap to Change has been successful in helping guide nonprofits through tough economic times. By providing a clear path and achievable goals, it has helped organizations stay focused and continue doing the vital work that they do.

3. How to create a strategic plan for your nonprofit

Creating a strategic plan for your nonprofit organization can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be!

By taking the time to assess your organization's strengths and weaknesses, setting clear goals, and involving key stakeholders in the process, you can develop a plan that will help your nonprofit achieve its objectives.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

One of the first steps in creating a strategic plan is to conduct a SWOT analysis, which will help you identify your organization's: 

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats 

Set goals for the future

Once you have a strong understanding of your current situation, you can begin to set goals for the future. 

When setting goals, it’s important to be realistic and specific. For example, rather than setting a goal to "increase fundraising," you could set a goal to "raise $50,000 through special events." 

Once you have established your goals, you can begin to develop strategies for achieving them. The best way to do this is to involve key stakeholders in the planning process. 

By getting input from those who will be responsible for implementing the plan, you can ensure that the plan is achievable and has buy-in from everyone involved. With a little time and effort, you can develop a strategic plan that will help your nonprofit organization achieve its objectives.


SWOT for nonprofits:

One of the major strengths of nonprofits is their mission-driven nature. Because nonprofits are typically focused on serving the public good rather than making a profit, they can be more nimble and adaptable than for-profit businesses. They can also be more effective at mobilizing volunteers and engaging stakeholders. 

However, this same mission-driven focus can also be a weakness, as it can make it difficult for nonprofits to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, because nonprofits rely heavily on donations and grants, they can be vulnerable to economic downturns.

Looking at the opportunities facing nonprofits, one of the biggest is the current political climate. With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of government funding for social programs, nonprofits have an opportunity to step in and fill any gaps that may emerge. 

Additionally, with more people looking to make a difference in the world, there may be an opportunity to increase engagement with potential volunteers and donors. However, nonprofits also face some challenges, such as increased competition for resources and a need to constantly adapt to changing circumstances.

4. Tips to implement your plan and achieve results

Now that you have your strategic plan in place, it's time to start implementing it and seeing results. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Communicate the plan to all stakeholders. Make sure everyone involved in your organization  understands the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. This will help ensure buy-in, and buy-in from key players is essential for successful implementation.
  2. Assign roles and responsibilities. Once the plan is communicated, assign specific tasks and roles to individuals or teams. This will help ensure that everyone knows what they need to do and when they need to do it.
  3. Set milestones and timelines. Breaking the plan down into achievable milestones will help you stay on track and measure progress. Be sure to set realistic timelines for each milestone so you can stay on schedule.
  4. Monitor progress and adjust as needed. As you implement the plan, it's important to monitor progress and make adjustments as necessary. This will help you ensure that you are staying on track and achieving results.

By following these tips, you can be well on your way to successfully implementing your nonprofit strategic plan and achieving results.

5. Evaluate your progress and make necessary changes

As your nonprofit organization works to implement its strategic plan, it’s important to periodically evaluate your progress and make necessary adjustments. This can help ensure that you are on track to achieve your desired outcomes and adapt to any changes in the external environment. 

There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating your progress, including how well you are executing your strategies, whether your target audience has changed, and whether your resources are adequate. 

Once you have gathered this information, you can make adjustments to your strategic plan accordingly. By regularly evaluating your progress and making needed changes, you can help ensure that your nonprofit is successful in achieving its goals.

6. Resources to help you along the way

Strategic planning is essential to the success of any nonprofit organization. But where should you start? 

The first step is to gather data about your organization, including your strengths and weaknesses. 

Here are some useful resources to help you along the way:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Other methods to collect this information

Once you have a good understanding of your current situation, you can begin to set goals and objectives for your nonprofit. These should be specific, achievable, and measurable.

After determining and setting your goals, it's time to develop strategies to achieve them. This is where you'll need to get creative and think outside the box. 

  • What programs or services can you offer that will help you reach your target audience? 
  • How can you partner with other organizations to accomplish more?
  • What fundraising strategies will work best for your nonprofit?

Developing a comprehensive and effective strategic plan takes time and effort. But with the right resources, you can create a roadmap for success.

7. Examples of non profits that have used strategic planning

There are many examples of non-profit organizations that have benefited from strategic planning. 

One well-known example is the Gates Foundation, which has used strategic planning to focus its resources on tackling global health issues. As a result of its strategic approach, the Foundation has been able to achieve considerable progress in combating diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. 

Another example is UNICEF, which has used strategic planning to improve its response to humanitarian crises. In particular, UNICEF has been able to develop better systems for delivering aid to children in conflict zones and natural disaster areas. 

These are just two examples of how effective strategic planning can be for nonprofit organizations. By taking a systematic and long-term approach, nonprofits can make the most of their resources and achieve a significant impact.