A Comprehensive Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Plan [+ Free Template]

A strategic plan can be an excellent guide to help your nonprofit reach your goals. If you aren't sure how to get started, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll share the common types of nonprofit strategic plans and what every plan should include. We'll also share three fantastic examples and a free downloadable template to get you on your way.

7 minutes read
A Comprehensive Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Plan [+ Free Template]

Did you know that 48% of business and nonprofit leaders spend less than one day a month focused on strategy? A strategic plan will shape the future of your nonprofit and require you to spend more time focusing on your strategy. It can also re-energize your nonprofit with new ideas and goals.

But you may not be sure how to get started with such a significant nonprofit management task.

In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at creating nonprofit strategic plans. We’ll also look at three fantastic examples for inspiration.

Let’s get started!

What is A Nonprofit Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a document that outlines a goal or goals your nonprofit wants to meet, as well as your plans to do so. It can cover one year or many, depending on the scope of the plan, and should outline the specific steps you intend to take.

Sometimes nonprofits work with consultants to help them develop these plans. Usually, a nonprofit strategic plan is voted on by your board members or guiding committee. It’s important to secure buy-in from as many leaders in your organization as possible so you know your strategic plan is not only possible – but supported.

5 Types of Nonprofit Strategic Plan Models

1. Standard

In the standard strategic plan model, you’ll set a goal or set of goals. You’ll then outline specific steps to meet those goals, with an ideal timeline. This model is the most popular choice since it fits most scenarios.

2. Organic

As the name suggests, an organic strategic plan is less regimented because it relies on the organic flow of activity at your nonprofit. Instead of coming up with all steps to reach your goal at once, you’ll instead agree on one step that will help you get closer to your goal. Then, you’ll reconvene to discuss and plan the next steps.

This type of strategic planning for nonprofit organizations is great when you aren’t sure what the next year at your nonprofit might look like.

Pro tip: Having a standardized method for analyzing the effectiveness of each step will be key. Use our Rose, Bud, and Thorn worksheet to help with this process.

3. Issue-based

This strategic plan responds to a specific issue. It can also help you get back on the same page – and even reaffirm your mission statement – if you find you’ve strayed from your mission.

4. Alignment

When your departments aren’t communicating effectively, things can go south fast. An alignment strategic plan model helps you focus on streamlining the way your team communicates.

5. Real-time

This model is great for responding to a crisis in real-time – like a global pandemic.

A real-time strategic plan responds to the crisis by taking things one step at a time. It involves regular meetings with the leaders in your organization to discuss the next steps, evaluate the success of past steps, and reaffirm your goals.

The Perfect Outline for A Nonprofit Strategic Plan

strategic plan for nonprofits with template

Although what you include will vary based on the nonprofit strategic plan model you employ, this basic outline is the perfect guide for creating your plan.

1. Summary

This high-level summary is sometimes presented as a letter from the Chief Officer. It runs through the basics of the plan to give readers an easily digestible look at the entire plan before diving into the details.

2. Mission & vision statements

Here, you’ll present your mission and vision statement. You should already have these statements posted on your website and in your fundraising toolkit, but it’s always a good idea to reiterate both statements anytime you’re starting a new initiative.

Need to craft these statements? Check out our Mission & Vision Statements worksheet.

3. Values

Your values can help guide your planning. What does your nonprofit value that’s relevant to your strategic plan? Include that in the outline.

Learn more about values in our article, How to Craft Nonprofit Organizational Values.

4. Goals or priorities

Although we admire ambition, your goals or priorities for your strategic plan should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Ensuring each goal is SMART will make your strategic plan more solid.

5. Tasks

How will you actually achieve those goals? The tasks you outline in your strategic plan should be actionable, direct, and clear. You should also clarify who is responsible for completing them.

6. Key performance indicators

Key performance indicators, or KPIs, will be how you measure the success of your efforts. For example, will you measure the number of donations you received since you launched your plan? The number of people you serve with a new program? There are several donor metrics you may want to include, too.

Learn about KPIs in our downloadable, 20 Important KPIs for Your Nonprofit.

Donorbox can help you record several top KPIs with donor management tools. You can sort all your donation data with a variety of filters so you get just the information you need to measure your strategic plan success. Our Reports tool also offers three donor reporting templates including new donors, donor overview, and LYBUNT (Last Year But Not This Year).

Screenshot of Donorbox's reporting templates.

7. Strategic planning committee members

This section should detail who has come up with this plan – and who will be responsible for following through with it. You can get this list from your Human Resources director.

8. SWOT analysis

This analysis can review either your organization as a whole or a part of your plan.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Use our Nonprofit SWOT Analysis Template to guide your analysis.

9. Financial projections

This section should only be included if there’s a significant financial component to your plan, like increasing your overall donations or growing your operating budget. You might also include your strategic fundraising plan here too.

It should outline both financial goals and expected costs.

6 Steps to Creating the Most Effective Strategic Plan for Nonprofits

1. Meet with your key stakeholders

Your first step is to meet with key stakeholders for your organization to establish your goals. This will include board members, chief officers, and sometimes department heads.

You can also check in with major donors to learn what they envision for the future of your nonprofit.

Pro tip: Meeting with major donors is an excellent way to both receive their guidance and steward that donor relationship. Just be sure to send a thank-you note after the meeting!

2. Analyze feasibility and revisit the mission

Now it’s time to make sure your goals are SMART! Are they specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely? If they aren’t, how can you make them more feasible?

This is also the time to check in with your mission. Do the goals serve your mission statement?

3. Come up with tasks to achieve goals

For each task, there should be a clear departmental “owner” – someone who is responsible for that task. You should also establish parameters for how to know when a task is complete, along with a plan for checking in with your team throughout the course of the plan to make sure everyone stays on task.

4. Get departmental synchronicity

…which means you’ll need significant buy-in from your department heads. It’s important that they’re connected to the strategic planning process so they know what’s expected of them and what they should expect from their staff.

They can also help you determine the feasibility of your goals and an appropriate timeline for completing them.

5. Assess your fundraising strategy

Whatever your goals are, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to complete them without a solid fundraising strategy.

Your strategy should include a variety of campaigns to support your new initiatives. In fact, a strategic plan can be a great incentive to bring in new donors and have them become a part of your growth.

Here at Donorbox, we have the tools you need to fundraise effectively and resources to help you sharpen that fundraising strategy. Powerful products and features like Donation Forms, Fundraising Pages, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, Events, Text-to-Give, Memberships, QuickDonate™, Donorbox Live™ Kiosk, and more will help you take your fundraising to the next level.

Sign up to launch your first campaign in 15 minutes.

Get Started with Donorbox

6. Bonus step – take the sting out of strategic planning

Check out episode 22 of The Nonprofit Podcast where our host Cara talks with Tim Ardillo, CFRE, about how to successfully go about strategic planning at your nonprofit. It shares actionable tips and proven tools you can use to get started.

Free Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template

Need more help to get started? Download our free template designed to help you put together a strategic plan that can fit any of the models listed above.

Download Our Free Template

3 Great Nonprofit Strategic Plan Examples

1. Brook

Brook is a UK-based charity that supports sexual health and wellness free from stigma.

Their strategic plan starts with a message from their chief executive and chair and includes beautifully designed pages for their vision, mission, and values.

We love how they include a separate page for each goal explaining how they’ll achieve it. This shows readers that they’ve thought through the specifics – beyond just what they hope to accomplish.

nonprofit strategic plan examples


The International City/County Management Association is a membership society of government professionals who want to sustain thriving communities globally.

Their strategic plan, called Envision, includes helpful context about their goals as an organization. Their plan starts with a long summary that covers their primary talking points.

ICMA strategic plan

They use graphics to organize their points in a visually attractive way.

They also outline priorities like growing their membership, creating a learning community, and more with strategies for achieving each objective.

3. Level Ground

Level Ground is an artist collective focused on removing oppressive social structures through art and community.

Their strategic plan helpfully started with their history, which provided context for the goals they outline later in the plan. We love how easy it is to navigate their attractive plan hosted on their website.

Level Ground strategic plan

Their SWOT analysis section successfully addresses why their goals are achievable and the overall health of their organization.

Final Thoughts

It’s time to focus on strategy. For nonprofits, there’s no better way to do that than to create a strategic plan. Nonprofit strategic plans sharpen your organization’s goals and priorities while providing a roadmap for bigger and better things.

However, no plan is effective without solid fundraising support. That’s where Donorbox can help. We thrive on helping nonprofits grow through rocket-boosting fundraising and stewarding long-term relationships with valuable donors. Learn about our features on the website. Sign up to start fundraising today!

We also provide free resources on our Nonprofit Blog, in the Donorbox Library, and more. Subscribe to our blog newsletter to receive a combined collection of our best resources in your inbox every month.

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey spent years wearing many hats in the nonprofit world. Whether she was helping arts nonprofits with their messaging and content, planning a fundraising gala, writing an NEA grant proposal, or running a membership program with over 400 members, she learned how to navigate – and appreciate! – the fast-paced world of fundraising. Now, she loves sharing those hard-earned lessons with the Donorbox community.

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