Back to Blog

6 Essential Elements for Your Nonprofit Strategic Plan

6 Essential Elements for Your Nonprofit Strategic Plan

To grow your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts and connect with supporters, your organization probably plans a variety of fundraising and marketing campaigns throughout the year. Strategic planning allows you to consolidate these efforts into an intentional, organized plan to keep your team on the same page. 

 You might be creating a strategic plan to guide your organization in the year ahead, or you might craft one specifically for a major fundraising initiative, such as a capital campaign. In this guide, we’ll review six essential elements to include in any nonprofit strategic plan: 

  1.  A SWOT Analysis
  2.  Clearly Defined Goals
  3.  A Case for Support
  4.  Stakeholder Input
  5.  Strategies for Achieving Your Goals
  6.  A Timeline for Reaching Your Goals

Nonprofit strategic planning gives your organization a clear roadmap for fundraising and marketing success, no matter the road ahead. It’s important to make your plan detailed and robust, but still, keep it flexible to adapt to changing circumstances throughout the course of the year or your campaign. 


1.  A SWOT Analysis

Your strategic planning process should begin with an assessment of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, otherwise known as a SWOT analysis. Let’s take a closer look at each element of this examination: 



Where is your organization excelling? It’s helpful to identify your nonprofit’s strengths to understand the aspects of your strategy that you should maintain and continue expanding. 


Where is your organization struggling? Understanding your weaknesses can help identify priorities that your nonprofit should focus on improving with the help of your strategic plan. 


Are there any opportunities you’re not currently taking advantage of? For instance, are there any fundraising trends or new technologies that your organization can leverage to grow your outreach efforts?


What external factors might threaten your organization’s operations? Although it’s challenging to foresee all of the possible roadblocks your nonprofit may face, take the time to highlight clear obstacles that you’re already aware of. 


By following the SWOT analysis process, you can start your nonprofit strategic planning with more clarity on your nonprofit’s current situation and potential opportunities. This can give you a leg up when determining your strategic planning priorities and goals. 


2. Clearly Defined Goals

The next stage of an effective nonprofit strategic plan is to set SMART goals based on the priorities and opportunities you identified in your SWOT analysis. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. By setting specific and measurable goals, you provide your team with a clear direction and focus for their efforts.


Your goals should be SMART:


Your goals should be as precise as possible. For instance, don’t just set a goal to engage more new donors. Set a goal to specifically recruit 250 new donors throughout the year. 


Set quantifiable goals so that you can measure and assess your progress using reports and graphs. 


Make sure your goals are realistic and based on your nonprofit’s past accomplishments and results.


Your goals should be relevant to your nonprofit’s mission and values. Think about how your objectives will support your organization’s efforts to achieve your mission.


You should strive to achieve your goals by a specific date. This will motivate your nonprofit’s team to push your objectives forward.


For example, instead of setting a vague goal to increase donor engagement, you can set a specific goal to increase donor retention by 15% over the next year. This goal is measurable because you can track the percentage of donors who continue to support your organization over time. It is also attainable because it is based on your organization's past performance and can be achieved with the right strategies and resources. It's relevant because donor engagement is a critical factor in your nonprofit's year-over-year growth and it's time-based because it's set within the next year.


Setting clear and SMART goals in your strategic plan will give your organization a roadmap for success and help you measure progress along the way. It will also provide your team with a sense of purpose and direction, motivating them to work towards achieving the goals you have set.


3.  A Case for Support 

A case for support is a document that presents compelling justifications for why supporters should give to your nonprofit and how their gifts will help meet urgent needs. A compelling case for support will help your nonprofit attract passionate supporters, raise more, and energize your staff by giving them a clear mission to rally around. 


As you draft your case for support, make sure it includes: 

  • Your nonprofit’s vision and mission statements.
  • An overview of your goals.
  • Why your organization is worthy of support based on past accomplishments and strides you’ve made toward your mission.
  • What your organization will be able to accomplish with supporters’ help.

Download our webinar on writing an effective case for support to help manage this stage of the strategic planning process. This resource walks through other critical elements to include in your case for support, how to design the document, and more. 


4.  Stakeholder Input

If you’re creating a strategic plan for a capital campaign, this will be the step where you complete a planning and feasibility study. If you’re creating a general strategic plan for the year, it’s still important to gather insight from and engage top stakeholders and supporters, such as major donors, board members, volunteers, community leaders, and other invested individuals. 


Hold conversations with these stakeholders and ask them to provide feedback on everything from your goals and case for support to potential fundraising campaigns you’re thinking of launching. 


Review your findings with your team to start developing your plan. Also, be sure to thank supporters for providing feedback and tell them specifically how you plan to incorporate their input into your planning process. This helps close the loop and show supporters that you are actively listening to their concerns. 


5.  Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

Once you’ve compiled stakeholder feedback and finalized your plan, it’s time to start putting your fundraising campaign into action. Define the who, where, when, why, and how of your plan by describing the steps you’ll take to accomplish your goals.


Follow these tips to set your plan in motion: 

  • Create a gift range chart. Define your major gifts, mid-tier gifts, and small gifts. Determine how much funding you’ll need to receive from each group to meet your goals.     
  • Identify new fundraising opportunities. For instance, could your organization be doing more to earn additional funding through workplace giving programs? Do you have an opportunity to develop your monthly giving program to make it more robust? 
  • Develop your marketing strategies. What marketing platforms will you use to promote your fundraising initiatives to supporters? Consider a mix of traditional platforms such as direct mail with digital channels like social media and your nonprofit’s website. 

These steps will help you turn your goals into a reality. Keep your strategies flexible throughout the year to adjust to any new opportunities or challenges that arise. 


Watch Now: Building Successful Fundraising Campaigns: Putting the Who, What, Where, and How into Action


6.  A Timeline for Reaching Your Goals

Giving your strategy a clear timeline keeps your organization on track throughout the year or throughout your campaign. 


Your timeline should include: 

  • Specific tasks that have to be completed.  Identify each major project, program, or initiative you plan to launch, such as planning and managing your virtual gala or launching your nonprofit social media strategy
  • Who will be in charge of each task. Whether it’s your full development team or a specific Board Member, ensure every task has a person assigned to carry it out.   
  • The budget or other resources that will be required for each task. For example, if you’ve determined that your team could benefit from additional fundraising training, you’ll likely have to set some funding aside for classes or workshops. Plus, these activities will require another valuable resource—your team’s time. Make sure to specify budget and time requirements in your timeline. 
  • When each task should be completed. Give each task a target completion date along with a few check-ins along the way to promote accountability and keep team members on target. 

Make sure to include a few opportunities throughout the year to thank your nonprofit’s staff for all of their hard work. You can spotlight different team members during meetings and describe their accomplishments in helping achieve your goals. 


If your organization needs assistance at any stage of the strategic planning process, don’t hesitate to reach out to a fundraising consultant. These professionals can provide expertise and guidance at any stage of the process, from gathering stakeholder input to recommending fundraising strategies. 


Plus, it’s also important to enlist trusted advisors and technology partners when it comes to technology. Technology partners can help empower your organization with the fundraising and marketing tools you need to carry out your strategic plan. Onward and upward!