Strategic Plan

nonprofit strategic plan

A nonprofit strategic plan is the formal process an organization creates to accomplish their goals and objectives for the year. It’s often a guiding document that is used to turn goals into actions.   

What is a nonprofit strategic plan?

A strategic plan is a formal guide that describes how an organization will meet its goals and objectives in the upcoming year. It’s the overarching plan for the entire organization, and it acts as a flow chart. Each step of the plan leads to another step that ultimately leads to success if the steps are completed. 

A strategic plan starts with a series of goals and objectives that will guide an organization’s actions for the upcoming year. For example, an animal shelter might focus on building a new wing in their shelter. A strategic plan will help keep them focused on accomplishing this goal by breaking it down into manageable and trackable steps. 

Types of strategic plans

There are many types of strategic plans. Which one is right for an organization will depend on the organization’s goals.

Here are five different types of strategic plans:

  1. Standard. In this plan, the goals and objectives for the year are relatively stable, building on the status quo.
  2. Issue-Based. This type of plan is often used when a specific problem is occurring that needs to be addressed. For example, an organization that continually misses its fundraising goals year over year might use an issue-based strategic plan to focus on fixing and correcting this issue.  
  3. Organic. This plan may be used when an organization isn’t sure what their immediate future holds. This plan may act as almost a pre-strategic plan, where the goal is to create future goals and objectives. 
  4. Real-Time. This strategic plan isn’t an annual plan. It happens in the middle of an unexpected event. Short-term goals are the focus of the plan.
  5. Alignment. This is best used when an organization has interdepartmental communication issues. The goal of this strategic plan is to better align or combine goals across departments. 

For more detail on each of these plans, see the complete Bloomerang guide to nonprofit strategic planning

Creating a strategic plan

Strategic plans should include SMART goals

SMART stands for:

  • S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – assignable
  • R – realistic
  • T – time-related

When it comes to an organization’s strategic plan, it’s important to set specific and measurable goals, with clear directions on who is in charge of which action, so that the plan can be tracked and monitored to better ensure success.

This plan will often work in a top-down fashion, which means each step of the plan must be followed in order to accomplish the ultimate goal. Going back to the example above of the shelter trying to build a new wing, here is an example of how this might work:

Objective: To get a new wing.


  1. Executive team: Create a building plan by January 15.
  2. Executive team: Find cost estimates by March 15.
  3. Fundraising team: Raise $25,000 by June 15th.
  4. Executive team: Hire builders by July 15th.
  5. Administrative team: Make plans for construction relocation by July 30th.
  6. Construction: Build a new wing by December 30th.

In reality, this would be a much more specific and detailed plan. However, this example is just to demonstrate a few key things:

  • Each task is assigned to a specific individual or department to accomplish.
  • Each step has a deadline. 
  • Each step leads to the ultimate goal of creating the new wing, which could not be accomplished without all of the previous steps first being met.   

Bottom line

A strategic plan acts as a blueprint for the organization and helps increase the likelihood of reaching goals and objectives. 

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