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Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations

Strategic planning can help a nonprofit achieve its goals. A plan will assist a nonprofit as it evaluates its assets and any challenges it may encounter. A strategic plan will also define the organization's mission, goals and objectives, and will guide the nonprofit as it sets out to accomplish its purpose.

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Define Your Mission

Every nonprofit has a mission. A mission is the reason for the existence of the organization and is the driving force behind the decisions that the nonprofit will make. A nonprofit will define the purpose of the organization in a mission statement. A mission statement should:

  • Define the objective;
  • Define the beneficiaries;
  • Be narrow;
  • Be concise.

Gathering input from others -- from others involved in starting the nonprofit, from experts in the field, and from the people the nonprofit will benefit -- can help create a mission statement that others will enthusiastically support.

Create Goals and Objectives

Once the nonprofit has a clear mission, the next step is to create goals and objectives. The broader purpose of the nonprofit can be broken down into more narrow goals. If, for instance, a nonprofit's mission is to help disadvantaged students attend college, specific goals might be to provide scholarships, a tutoring program for high school students, or assistance with college applications.

Based on the goals, a nonprofit can create related objectives. For instance, if the goal is to provide college scholarships, a specific objective could be to provide ten scholarships to disadvantaged students by 2020. Unlike a goal, the success of an objective is measurable.

Do Your Homework

Researching the needs of a nonprofit is an essential part of creating a successful organization. Nonprofit organizations should make assessments about internal and external factors that may contribute to the success or failure of the organization. Nonprofit organizations should consider:

  • If other organizations offer similar services in the area;
  • How many people will use the service;
  • The skills of the staff;
  • Whether training of the staff and volunteers is necessary;
  • Will the organization receive adequate funding from contributors and grants;
  • Whether the nonprofit has the necessary technology to operate;
  • What equipment will the organization need to purchase;
  • Will people volunteer.

A nonprofit can answer many of these questions by collecting information from surveys or one-on-one interviews.

Strategic Planning

After gathering internal and external information, it is necessary to analyze it by using a strategic planning process. A SWOT analysis is a common way to analyze information. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

  • Strengths: An organization's internal positive assets
  • Weaknesses: An organization's internal weaknesses
  • Opportunities: Positive indicators outside of the organization
  • Threats: Negative aspects outside of the organization

Usually a SWOT analysis is completed as a group, but participants can complete it individually before making comparisons. Using a SWOT analysis helps the organization focus its resources and helps it evaluate its capacity to accomplish specific goals and objectives. The analysis will guide the organization as the nonprofit creates ways to benefit from strengths and opportunities and makes plans to diminish weaknesses and threats.

Create a Work Plan

A nonprofit can also create a work plan, or an action plan, to list specific tasks. The work plan will list objectives and timelines for completing a job. A work plan is a good way to break tasks up into smaller tasks and to track progress. A work plan, for instance, will typically include information about the objective, the length it will take to complete the task, the person responsible for completing the task, and the resources needed.

Assemble the Plan

A finalized plan for the nonprofit can include the organization's mission statement, its objective and goals, its assessment of external and internal factors, a strategic plan, and a work plan. A nonprofit can then create a professional document it can submit to donors by using publishing software to add graphs and illustrations.

Hire a Lawyer to Help Your Nonprofit Strategically Plan 

A lawyer familiar with charitable organizations can help your nonprofit create a viable strategic plan. A business and commercial law attorney can assist with creating goals, objectives, and a path towards your nonprofit's future. 

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