What Are the Steps of a Nonprofit Strategic Planning Process?

March 26, 2018

Black Chess piece facing other chess pieces across the boardNonprofits should engage in ongoing long and short-term strategic planning activities as necessary to determine the mission of the organization, to define specific goals and objectives related to the mission, and to evaluate the success of the organization’s programs toward achieving the mission.

A nonprofit should periodically revisit its mission (i.e., at a minimum every 5 years) to determine whether the need for its programs or services continues to exist. In light of societal changes and critical strategic issues, the organization should evaluate whether its programs should be modified, expanded, or discontinued to meet the mission.

The Standards for Excellence code does not specify a particular system of planning,

it asserts that each nonprofit’s board of directors should engage in ongoing planning activities. The board is legally responsible for setting direction, assuring the organization has needed

and overseeing operations of the nonprofit organization it governs.

However, below is an outline of the steps generally used in a Strategic Planning process.

Steps to Engage in a Nonprofit Strategic Planning Process

1.    Conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

) ,
Environmental Scan, or SOAR Analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results)

2.    Develop or revise the mission statement

3.    Create a plan that includes:

  • Short-term, mid-range, and long-term strategies
  • Goals and objectives
  • Timelines
  • Budgets
  • Responsibilities

4.    Connect planning efforts with ongoing operations

5.    Measure progress and evaluate strategies

For access to our hands-on guide to strategic planning and other resources including our Strategic Plan Outline, Sample Strategic Plan Implementation Planning document, and Sample Strategic Plan Executive Summary and other resources, join Maryland Nonprofits today!  

From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement


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