Whether yours is a large or small nonprofit organization, you need a strategic plan.
What’s all the buzz about planning? What do you need—a long range plan (and what is long range anyway?), a business plan, a strategic plan? Long-range these days is usually three years and that is how often you should revisit your plan. A business plan is really a term borrowed from, guess where—the business world! Although these terms are often used interchangeably, what makes the plan strategic is that you will identify strategies to help meet your goals and objectives. So that’s what we’re going to refer to your plan as here.
The strategic plan encompasses all components of your organization—program, finances, facilities, and human resources. One thing that make nonprofit plans different from a business plan are that there is a charitable component to most nonprofits; many rely heavily on charitable donations. Although your nonprofit might also have a revenue-generating model that might include fee-for-services, or social enterprise, even a for-profit division, donations are probably crucial to your existence. The other thing that is unique in nonprofit strategic plans is that the role of the board in implementing the plan is critical.
Is the strategic plan the same as your development plan? No! Although a great part of your strategic plan might revolve around fundraising, your development plan is different from your strategic plan. The development plan is an outgrowth of your strategic plan and provides the details on how you are going to obtain the resources to fulfill the goals outlined in your strategic plan.
Ah, that brings to me to one of my favorite topics—goals and objectives!
All nonprofit organizations have goals. Your goals might include--to remain or become financially viable; to serve your clients; to have a happy, well-trained, professional staff; to help solve a community need. You will likely establish somewhere between three and five broad goals for your plan, sometimes more. But goals are useless without measurable objectives to help you accomplish your goals.
Your plan should have overall goals (such as those listed above)
Every goal must have measurable objectives (we often call these objectives SMART—they must be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-defined.
Strategies answer the question—“How are we going to achieve our objectives and, as a result, our goals?”
Strategic plans must be translated into departmental work plans which include timelines, areas of responsibility, and budgets.
So, if you don’t have strategic plan, get ready to do one. If you already have one, it might be time to update it, and by all means, evaluate the plan you have and see if your goals, objectives, and strategies are still viable. And are departmental plans on track?
For more on strategic plans for nonprofits see Nonprofit Strategic Planning, co-authored by Lynne Dean, CFRE and Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. You can find the book at www.LindaLysakowski.com.