Many nonprofits overlook the important process of creating a strategic plan. Consider that a strategic plan is much like a roadmap or GPS. It tells you where the organization is going and how it’s going to get there. Strategic plans do more than that. A strategic plan helps nonprofits have the greatest possible impact on their community. Planning is also useful for clarifying the organization’s mission and goals. Board members rely on the strategic plan to help them prioritize the budget, allocate spending, and maximize their fundraising dollars.
It’s helpful for boards to use a strategic plan template so they can be sure that they’re getting all the essential components to it. A strategic plan should be considered a fluid document that boards can adapt to reflect the changing needs of the nonprofit, society, or the industry.
Strategic Plan Template for a Nonprofit Board
Executive Summary-The Executive Summary is much like it sounds. It should include short descriptions of the most important information about the strategic planning process and the results. Thus, it makes sense that the Executive Summary should be written after the planning is completed. The summary should be no more than 1-2 pages in length and describe the highlights of the plan including strategic issues and goals, and when and how the nonprofit will implement the plan.
Board Authorization of Strategic Plan-In the case of a corporation, the strategic plan template should include the names, signatures, and dates of the board members who approved the plan. The format may be formatted along the lines of the following:
Name of Board Member: ___________
Date Signed: _________
Name of Board Member: ____________
Date Signed: _________
Organizational Description-This section is intended for external stakeholders such as potential members, donors, grantmakers, and other interested stakeholders. This section should be informative and include a brief overview of the history of the organization, a description of products or services, and an overview of the organization’s main accomplishments and other notable highlights or events in the history of the nonprofit.
Mission, Vision and Values-These statements provide information about the organization’s purpose, what they do, and the values that they deem precious.
Mission Statement-The mission statement provides a short statement about the organization’s purpose. It should explain why the organization exists and why they offer the products or services they do. Bear in mind that nonprofits post their mission statements to their letterhead, insert it into all plan documents, and list it on the website.
Vision Statement-The vision statement should be aspirational and inspirational. It should be a statement that talks about what the leaders want to see happen when the organization meets its goals.
Values Statement-The values statement paints a picture of the organization’s core values in how they implement the mission and vision. The board and its officers should adhere to the nonprofit’s values in thought, speech, and actions in their official board duties.
Goals and Strategies-Nonprofits evaluate the external needs and consider the results of an internal analysis before starting to work on the strategic plan. Goals are what the nonprofit wants to accomplish, and the strategies describe the actions the board needs to take to achieve their goals successfully. Nonprofits should use the acronym SMART in choosing their goals. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-measured.
Strategic plans should include organization-wide goals that are related to building and leading the nonprofit. These goals pertain to developing the board, training staff, obtaining and maintaining facilities, and ensuring adequate resources, etc. Other goals should center around the types of products and services the nonprofit provides and how those goals relate to the mission and vision.
Each goal should have an action plan that lists the steps that boards and staff will take to achieve each goal. Some of the goals will be listed as short-term goals. Short-term goals are usually expected to be achieved within one to three years. Long-term goals are forward-looking goals which the board hopes to accomplish within the next three to five years or longer. Longer goals may be things like doing a market analysis in anticipation of beginning a new program, adding more staff, getting new members, adding more volunteers, getting a certain level of additional funding, etc.
After completing the list of goals, members of the strategic planning committee should carefully review them to ensure that they’re closely aligned with the nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values. If not, the committee should revisit them and either modify them or consider deleting them from the plan.
Appendices-Appendices can be added to provide any additional information that committees want to use to support other parts of the strategic plan like responsibilities, timelines, strategic analysis data, staffing plans, budgets, financial reports, etc.
Using Board Management Software for Strategic Planning
BoardEffect is a board management digital software solution for nonprofit organizations of all kinds to allow them to work smarter and fulfill their missions. BoardEffect answers the direct board management needs of organizations so that nonprofits can be better communicators and collaborators. In addition, BoardEffect answers the board’s needs for secure communication and file-sharing.
BoardEffect supports a modern approach to board governance which allows board leaders to make informed decisions that yield better outcomes. This software provides the utmost in board meeting management processes that increase efficiency, accuracy, and transparency.
Strategic plans weren’t intended to be created in a vacuum. A strategic plan is everyone’s plan. Not everyone can be involved in strategic planning, especially nonprofits that have a large board, staff, volunteers, and membership. In such cases, strategic planning committees should be comprised of a representative of staff, board members, volunteers, and sometimes experts. Strategic planning committees should also have a competent leader who is capable of leading the group, completing the strategic plan process, and arranging for the board to review the plan. The committee chair should also flag the board to monitor the strategic plan periodically and update it on a regular basis.
To be responsive and competitive, nonprofit boards need to complete their strategic plan as part of their fiduciary responsibilities.