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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How nonprofits can benefit from strategic planning


Strategic planning is essential if nonprofits are to achieve desired results and identify goals. Programs within a nonprofit can then use these goals to create individualized action plans that help serve the needs of the program while focusing on the global mission and vision of the organization. Having a strategic plan can help increase an organization’s focus to move the mission and vision forward while also helping the nonprofit to evaluate its progress, strengths and needs. Programs can evaluate areas they need to improve, ways they want to enhance the services they currently provide or discover areas where services can be added.

Strategic plan = blueprint for the future

An organization’s strategic plan acts as a blueprint, a plan and a focus of what direction the agency will move. “It generates an explicit understanding of an organization’s mission, strategy and organizational values among staff, board members and external constituencies,” according to Michael Allison and Jude Kaye, authors of “Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations.”

Program staff involvement is essential

Whether it is a new organization in its infant stages, an organization trying to rebuild or one that is thriving, planning is important and necessary to keep all staff focused on the future. Allowing all levels of staff to be a part of the strategic planning process creates clarity and buy-in. When a staff member is asked to help their agency meet goals with no explanation of those goals, they will not know how to effectively contribute. It is important to share with program staff what role they play toward the organization’s sustainability, therefore creating ownership and buy-in among programs. 

Strategic planning's eight objectives:

There are eight broad objectives that Bloomerang details for the strategic planning process:

  1. Scope of programs and services – information that comes from the mission statement
  2. Priorities for types of programs and services – listed in order from the board and leadership as the priority programs and services that tie back in to your overarching strategic plan
  3. Priorities for target populations – goals that change every three years or change as new ones arise
  4. Locations and facilities – capital planning, renovation, accessibility, new systems, maintenance and whatever else may be needed to serve clients
  5. Community planning and organization – working with outside stakeholders to meet the community's needs
  6. Advocacy and public policy – commitment to service the intended population while seeking a broader solution to the problem and engaging policy makers
  7. Branding/marketing communication – how to reach the targeted audience that informs, engages, involves and motivates philanthropic support
  8. Resource development – diversified sources of support for current and future programs through increasing annual operating income

Identifying specific, key objectives helps an organization fulfill its mission, boosts its appeal on social media and other means to generate financial support, and looks at what is needed to make the plan viable. Developing a clear plan around objectives such as these can help an organization stay focused on the present while still looking ahead. 

One-page plans

The concept of the One Page Business Plan was first introduced in 1994 by Jim Horan. He discovered that busy entrepreneurs as well as nonprofit CEOs needed a tool that could help them manage their goals in a quick yet well-written way. Christian Family Care (CFC) uses One Page Plans to help capture their annual goals and assist each department leader develop their program goals. Then the tool is used to help supervisors within each department develop their goals. This cascading of goals helps keep all parties focused on the program needs as well as the global needs of the agency. One Page Plans should generally be read in about five minutes or less. He focuses on five areas: Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Action Plans. 

Focus on the goals

Strategic planning can benefit nonprofits in many ways, acting as a guide and tool to help nonprofits focus on the goals they hope to accomplish in the coming year and providing a tool for presentations to the board and funders to clearly share the intention and focus of the nonprofit for the year. It also serves as a means of accountability to the board from its CEO, from the department directors to the CEO and from the supervisors to the directors. A strategic plan should be well thought-out and include all individuals who will be required to meet the goals and be a part of the team that decides the strategies and action plan for said goals. In conclusion, a strategic plan is most valuable when all who participate agree on its value and hold it in a position of importance.

Nicole Salusky is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Salusky is currently working at Christian Family Care as a Foster Care Program Manager. She has been in the nonprofit sector since 1999. She pursued her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Ottawa University and has completed her master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management with ASU. Her passion is to serve people and find innovative ways to enhance programs within nonprofit agencies.

Need help with your strategic plan?

The experts at the ASU Lodestar Center are ready to assist. We'll provide organization facilitation, training, individualized consultation and leadership development throughout a comprehensive strategic planning process. Get in touch today.


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