When is the last time you reviewed the strategic plan for your nonprofit?
When is the last time you revised your strategic plan?
Many organizations never develop a strategic plan. Of those that do, an estimated 60–90% fail to implement the strategies needed to make the plan work. This makes running the organization, to some degree, an exercise in futility.
As the leadership mantra goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”
Creating a strategic plan is the process of shaping your nonprofit’s priorities to arrive at a preferred future. It is not merely existing until the future arrives.
Given the upheaval of the past couple of years—a global pandemic, a major war in Ukraine, and a global spike in inflation—the new year provides a timely opportunity to review your strategic plan.
Even still, you might be asking, “Why does my nonprofit need a strategic plan?”
There are at least three reasons:
- It creates clear steps to meet your goals
- It helps you work through specific challenges
- It helps you deepen engagement with stakeholders
In this article, we’ll consider:
- What is a strategic plan?
- Why a periodic review is imperative
- How to assess your organization’s position
- Specific challenges you might face in 2023
- Implementing the changes you need to succeed
What is a strategic plan?
“A nonprofit strategic plan is a tool that helps you define where your nonprofit organization wants to go and what actions you will take to achieve your goals.” -Asana
Creating a strategic plan is the process of shaping your nonprofit’s priorities to arrive at a preferred future.
If planning is the process of shaping your priorities, the plan documents what your preferred future looks like and records the steps your nonprofit needs to take to arrive at it.
The wind might blow where it wishes, but a strategic plan is the sail that uses the wind to arrive where you want to be, not where the wind wants you to be.
Why a periodic review of your nonprofit strategic plan is imperative
In too many instances, leaders get distracted by circumstances from keeping their organization moving in the right direction.
In normal times, you should review your nonprofit strategic plan every two or three years to ensure it still represents the realities of your organization. But these are anything but normal times.
With the final effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, global supply chain problems, and the highest inflation in decades yet unknown, the time for a strategic plan review is sooner rather than later.
You need to know if your direction needs to be adjusted, your people need to know whether to change the sails, and all of you need to be working together.
Reassess your organization’s position
Nothing hinders the progress of your nonprofit like having a false sense of reality.
If you believe you are farther along the way of reaching your goals, a sense of complacency can set in or you can wrongly believe things are fine.
Assess your true position by collecting and analyzing data on financial performance, the effectiveness of your current programs, and whether your stakeholders (employees, leadership, supporters, and clients) are satisfied.
You can also conduct surveys via email (check out SurveyMonkey, Typeform, or SurveySparrow) or have focus groups (in person or online) to get meaningful feedback.
Set SMARTER goals
Are you setting goals that are SMART or SMARTER?
Most leaders are familiar with SMART goals, those that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (or time-based).
The concept has been around since 1981. Of late, two additional qualifiers have been added: Evaluate and Revise. These take goal setting from smart to smarter.
If you do not evaluate, you will not actually know whether your goals are SMART or not.
Were they specific enough? Were you able to measure them as you planned? If you did not attain them, why not? Evaluation is critical in the health of your organization.
Revising after evaluation is the next step.
Is a new toolset needed to measure your efforts? Do any of your goals need revision to make them timely again?
If so, take the time to revise your goals and the plan you need to reach them.
Revising a strategic plan can be as straightforward as reviewing and then making a few tweaks. Often though, it is far more complicated, even to the point of nearly starting over.
These examples can help jump start your thinking and planning:
- Build a Strategic Plan for Your Nonprofit (With Template)—Asana
- 50+ Strategic Plan Examples to Inspire Your Nonprofit—Prosper Strategies
- Lastly, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has created a helpful document outlining the Components of a Strategic Plan
Be prepared for specific challenges you might face in 2023
Any new year brings with it assorted challenges, some are as regular as clockwork: the need for financial support, the need to stay on track, and the need to manage volunteers.
Given the state of things, some of 2023’s challenges might be unique.
Changes in funding sources from the government and grants
If the income you receive from grants lessens, how will you replace it? Are the same grants available? Will the partnerships you have with local government for giving away food, for instance, continue?
Proactively connect with government grant providers and foundations that have provided you with income. If you need to revise your requests, do so before you lose the funding.
If you need to hire a grant writer, check Upwork or Fiverr for contractor options.
Don’t overlook the support major gifts can provide for your nonprofit. See 10 Strategies to Bring in Major Gift Fundraising for ideas.
Increased competition from other nonprofits
As many people continue to struggle with the effects of inflation or job loss, donor dollars will be stretched thin.
Every organization that depends on donors to stay afloat will be reaching out to secure contributions.
You will need to set yourself apart by clearly communicating your mission and vision, making your case for their trust and support, and making it easy for them to contribute.
Anedot’s tools make giving easy, so talk to us to help reach your donation goals.
And don’t overlook what one consultant calls the War for Talent. “To attract top talent, employers must offer a working environment that is appropriate for the new world of work, including job flexibility, authentic leadership, diversity, etc.”
Though for many nonprofits it will be a smaller scale, the issue of talent will be an issue for many.
Give yourself an advantage by fostering a work atmosphere that draws potential employees to your organization.
Changes in client needs
What segment of your community does your nonprofit engage? Those who need food and clothes? Teachers? Churches?
Have you evaluated how your client’s needs might have changed and what that means for your efforts?
Do the students in your community still need backpacks of paper, pencils, and crayons, or do they need breakfast and lunch on the weekends?
Are the faith families in your community still working together to meet needs or have they drifted apart?
Being aware of changes in your clients’ needs can help you better determine the changes that need to be made to your strategic plan.
Tech changes and innovations
Changes to tech can present you with both challenges and opportunities in 2023.
The recent rollout of Open AI’s ChatGPT, an Artificial Intelligence content-generation tool, promises to change the content creation landscape for a long time if not forever.
AxiosHQ uses Artificial Intelligence and Smart Brevity to make email newsletters more attractive, engaging and easy to read.
And don’t forget the age-old need to upgrade existing equipment. As computers age they tend to get bloated with excess files, slowing their normal performance.
Anyone who has ever turned on or rebooted a computer, then had time to go make a triple-shot latte while waiting to be able to use it knows the experience.
Think of how much productivity is lost when old equipment does not function well and consider whether upgrading computers, phones, external monitors, routers, and the like should be considered in the new year. Time spent waiting on equipment is time not moving toward your goal.
And, don’t forget your website! The launch of a new website is always a cause for celebration, but maintaining its functionality and optimizing its performance is crucial.
Pro-tip: You can create a one-page website using Canva Website Builder for free.
Do you have broken links or slow loading pages? Do you have content that’s no longer relevant? Have you reviewed your SEO performance or reviewed your SEO strategy?
For many nonprofits, their website is the front door. That might be the case with yours as well.
Semrush can help you perform a website audit, so you can keep your content fresh.
Anedot saves nonprofits time and money with powerful fundraising tools.
We proudly serve churches, campaigns, universities, and nonprofits like yours.
With tools that make generous giving easy, allow us to partner with you in seeing your strategic plan fulfilled.