How do I Develop a Non-Profit Strategic Plan?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Developing a non-profit strategic plan consists of addressing key issues that will end up being a blueprint for the organization's success. The key issues to focus on begin with the organization's mission, vision and values, and its goals and objectives. Next, you should look at what assets and resources the organization has, along with a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Finally, you should consider the programs, services, and activities the organization will implement to meet its goals and objectives. These issues will make up the strategic plan, which is then packaged and shared internally, with donors, and with the public.

The mission, vision, and values statements are the most important aspects of the non-profit strategic plan. The mission statement should define the reason for establishing the non-profit organization in the first place. The vision statement is often included, though not required, and it should outline what the organization will look like in the future. The values are included sometimes to ensure that those running a non-profit are on the same page.

The meat of a non-profit strategic plan is the goals and objectives. A non-profit business has to work towards accomplishing these in order to sustain itself. The goals are the general accomplishments that the non-profit wants to attain within three years. The objectives are the specific tactics that will accomplish the goals set. Think of objectives as milestones with deadlines.


Every non-profit starts out with at least one asset or resource, even if it's just the skills that the founder brings to the organization. Other assets and resources that are usually included in a non-profit plan are expertise; money; real estate; technology, equipment and machinery; staff and volunteers; and experience. This section of the plan does not need to include future assets or resources the board or founders hope to acquire, but should be an assessment of what is currently available.

Many types of businesses use a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis when writing a business or strategic plan. It is also a popular method used by non-profit organizations to create the best strategies that will help the organization accomplish its goals and objectives. Strengths and weaknesses are internal issues, whereas opportunities and threats assess external factors.

The programs, services, and activities of the organization should fall in line with the mission and vision statement, and be a means to accomplish goals and objectives. This is the portion of the non-profit strategic plan that the public sees, and it's how donors will determine whether they want to make a contribution. The activities can include internal activities that the staff and boards will undertake to carry out the organization's mission statement.

Running a non-profit without a strategic plan is like driving a car with no idea where to go. It is not an effective approach, and it is usually not sustainable over the long run. A non-profit strategic plan is not static and it should change as the organization grows, but it is important to formulate at least a basic plan as a starting point for any organization.


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