Strategic Planning for Sustainability

adobe-icon-2-20.png  Download this guide PDF


Often confusing and even intimidating, strategic planning is nothing more than setting an organization’s long-term goals and the plan to achieve them. It clarifies purpose and direction, focuses the organization’s activities and resources, and helps ensure sustainability.

Basic Strategic Plan

A basic strategic plan is:

  • a governance activity entrusted to nonprofit boards
  • a set of goals and tactics designed to help an organization perform its mission and ultimately achieve its vision
  • a guide to balancing often conflicting priorities and allocating resources

Developing Your Strategic Plan

High-level process for developing your strategic plan

  • Start with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) or similar analysis
  • Draft a plan
  • Discuss, test, modify and then accept goals
  • Develop action plans for implementation

Implement the Plan

Strategic planning often gets a bad name because organizations fail to implement the plan. Recent studies show that only 12% of strategic plans are fully implemented. So, it’s vitally important to allocate leadership’s time to implementing and managing the plan after it’s approved. Here’s a suggested model:

  • Leadership team takes a day away every 90 days to an off-site location to avoid interruptions and temptations to go back to your desk
  • Cell phones off and no emails – be fully present at the meeting
  • Review past 90 days and set course for next 90 days
  • Ensure the organization is furthering the goals of the strategic plan

Goals of Strategic Planning

  • A single, clean, up-to-date database – the life blood of the organization. There are up-to-date policies governing its use and procedures that ensure the data stays up-to-date.
  • Fund development plan that reasonably projects revenue needs and strategies for meeting those needs for the next three years.
  • Clear program policies and procedures as well as the supervision to ensure they are followed.
  • Regular measures, assessments, and evaluation of program and administrative effectiveness.
  • Communication plan that uses all available media to best reach their target audience(s) with appropriate frequency.
  • Succession planning for key roles in the organization (staff & board) – both short-term for sudden absences and long-term for planned absences.

Primary Source:

Nonprofit World, Sep/Oct 2012, by Lisa Dahmus & Lynn Perry Wooten