The beginning of the year is usually a bit late to start drafting a new strategic plan for your nonprofit. But, if you’re running a small nonprofit, without a plan and want to create one, here are some helpful ideas as you begin this important process.
Why Have a Strategic Plan?
Any organization has a much better chance of achieving its mission with a plan in place, especially if the plan is updated every three to four years to stay relevant to changing conditions. Even a simple plan will let your organization respond better to opportunities and predict needs ahead of time.
Keep Your Strategic Plan Appropriate for Your Organization
If you do not have a plan in place, keep your first one simple and brief. A simple plan is easier for everyone to understand and follow. A more nuanced plan may seem attractive, but if it’s too hard for everyone to adhere to, it will fail. Many small organizations try to create strategic plans better suited to a national charity. The inevitable result is nobody pays any attention to it.
What Sections Should I Include?
Begin With a Mission Statement
Your Mission Statement is the reason your organization exists. It should be a rallying call for everyone who hears it. Like your strategic plan, keep it simple. One to two short phrases should suffice. Your strategic plan will support your mission – period.
Goals and Actions
This section should contain short-term and long-term goals for your organization. Goals projected under one year are great. But consider them to be steps toward long-term goals. The steps to your goals will be actions needed to make them work. Keep them general, making room for amendments as needed during execution. The more details you include, the more easily you can track the progress of your overall strategic plan.
Obstacles & Opportunities
Within your plan, you should outline the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. There may be just one in each category or several. Discussing these items will bring your team together in deciding what’s important in your direction as an organization. Often, these discussions can generate breakthroughs. Breakthrough thinking is what will make your strategic plan come to life. The best part is such thinking serves as a catalyst to board engagement. Such engagement by your board members makes the whole organization.
The opportunities section of your strategic plan can be a double-edged sword. The team drafting your plan should know exactly what resources and funding you have. Often, resources determine what opportunities can be reasonably pursued. Some opportunities might need to be slotted for the future rather than just being ignored.
Bringing It All Together
Your plan should provide a roadmap that can be easily and quickly understood. Use it as your organization’s guide and keep track of your progress as you move forward. Your strategic plan will serve as the one primary “go to” source for making many decisions in the future for both you and for your team. Continually ask yourself before making a move, does this support our mission or does it sidetrack the plan?
Finally, remember that your plan must be a living, breathing document. A great opportunity or a rare gift may come up and create a need to revise the plan at any given time during your journey. If it this happens, you should jump at the opportunity to revitalize your organization by embracing a welcome change.