Planning is the key to success for any venture - including your nonprofit organization. Whether you revise a prior year's plan, use the plan of a similar organization as a guide, or simply start from scratch, you must create a Strategic Plan.

How Long Will it Take to Write a Plan?

The board, which is responsible for planning, often forms a planning committee to work on the strategic plan. Because there are many steps involved, and because committee members usually can't work on them full time, developing your plan will probably take at least six months -- and two years is not unreasonable.

The Right Frame of Mind

To start your plan, you'll need ideas. To encourage participants to offer lots of them, create a non- judgmental atmosphere for brainstorming. The rules of brainstorming are simple:

---Don't hold back any ideas -- silly or not. The more ideas the better.
---Don't discuss the ideas during the brainstorming session -- just state them.
---Don't judge -- no one is allowed to criticize ideas.
---Write all ideas down and divide them into categories B short-term and long-term.
---Build upon the ideas generated.

What Should Our Plan Include?

Now that you're in the right frame of mind, what areas should you explore? Your plan usually consists
of:

1. A mission statement
2. Your goals to achieve that mission
3. Measurable objectives to guide and track whether goals are being met or can be accomplished
4. Specific, assigned activities that need to be completed to attain the objectives
5. A timetable to evaluate progress, update the plan, and make any adjustments or changes

Your Mission Statement

Start by reviewing your mission statement. It should be a clear, concise statement of the reason your organization exists and the purpose of its efforts. This statement drives your organization's programs, services, goals and day-to-day activities, so each review you perform is an opportunity to reinvent the future. Having everyone involved in the review is key to making sure the mission statement is supported
by all participants.

Note: Refer to the SCORE handout Mission-based Marketing for guidance on how to determine whether your mission statement is satisfactory.

Performing a Situation Analysis

There are two types of situation analysis: internal and external.

An internal analysis helps you plan for the future by giving you an accurate picture of how the organization operates right now. It can reveal trends, irregularities, limitations, and opportunities. To perform an internal analysis, gather information about the organization=s strengths and weaknesses, products, services, programs, activities, staffing, and finances. One way to do so is to get input from key constituents (e.g., clients, staff, and volunteers).

An external analysis helps you understand how the organization is perceived externally and what societal factors may affect its future. External factors that influence your organization may things like the economy, demographics, social factors, technology changes, competition, politics, regulatory factors, and public opinion.

Setting Your Goals

Unlike the situation analysis, which requires a concrete assessment of your organization's situation, the goal-setting process is a time for imaginative thinking. Your organization’s goals should spring from its vision-- the dream or dreams it hopes to realize. The goals you set should be general, and some experts recommend establishing between three and eight of them. Questions to consider in setting your goals are:

---What do you hope to accomplish and why?
---What is the desired outcome?
---Who is the primary target?
---Who will derive the major benefit when the desired outcome is achieved?

Establishing Objectives and Activities

Objectives set forth desired outcomes, while activities describe how the objectives will be met. 

Objectives are statements of specific circumstances to be achieved by a designated time that address a particular goal and may be attained by any number of approaches. Objectives must be measurable by some means (e.g., dates, dollars, percentages) to determine your progress toward reaching them. 

Activities are ventures undertaken by assigned individuals to reach an objective. They are specific, time measured, and have a targeted completion. Activities are how an organization moves ahead.

Evaluation

Key questions to be answered in the evaluation are:
---Is our vision realistic and attainable?
---Is the mission statement still current and valid?
---Do the goals really promote the mission statement?
---Are the objectives addressing the goals?
---Are the activities helping to achieve the objectives?

 

The material in this publication is based on work supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration under cooperative agreement SBAHG-04-S-0001. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Updated May 2006
George Hannye