10 Step Ultimate Guide for Nonprofit Strategic Planning

(note: this is an episode replay from: Episode #126: 10 Steps to Skyrocket Your Nonprofit or Freelance Biz)

Are you ready to ensure you reach your goals for the rest of the year?  Here is your guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning!

Now is the time to do that.

If you are either a nonprofit leader, staff, or volunteer and are trying to move the needle forward on your nonprofit OR if you are an aspiring freelance consultant and are stuck in overwhelm then this podcast and article is for you!

Just imagine how much more accomplished you will feel having the steps to create a plan that will work.

This 10 step guide can be down internally in your nonprofit or business OR if you are a freelance grant writer or nonprofit consultant can be learned services you can offer!

So if you want to make a huge difference in

  • ending the cycle of stressing out about not having enough time
  • not securing the funding you need, and
  • having real burnout

And instead you want to feel:

  • in control of your life,
  • have a higher quality of life, and
  • have a plan that brings in real financial results,
  • …then this is for you.

As a grant writer, you know that all nonprofits are not able to go for grants all the time or that they could improve their projects.

Thus, this episode will give you skills to do each of these 10 steps as a stand-alone service for nonprofits or you can do them all as an overall package. In any case, this is another way to multiply your streams of income.

So, let’s get started!

Step #1 Know Your Values

We covered this step in-depth during episode #125.

Here is a quick summary: You must know what your values are because that is how you will operate your freelance business or how executive directors operate nonprofits. So first list your values and then prioritize them. This is key because you may have conflicting values (yes, us humans are complex beings).

But everything you do in your business or in a nonprofit is based upon values.

If you don’t understand what these values are, or where your values are placed on a hierarchy, then you will have a hard time making decisions and leading your business or nonprofit.

Step #2 Conduct a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. If your values are the core principle on how you operate, then the SWOT is a way to measure your resources.

To do a SWOT, first, you need to separate the strengths and weaknesses from the opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are the internal markers in your business or nonprofit and opportunities and threats are the external markers.

Overall, the following is true:

  • Strengths: What you rock at! These can also be internal resources or elements that you have at your disposal, i.e. a donated office or great morale!
  • Weaknesses: You know you could do better. These are those nagging monsters in your business or nonprofit.
  • Opportunities: Yay! Those great ideas, potential partnerships, or possible resources! The things that get your excited and some solutions to your challenges.
  • Threats: You got no control over these external factors. What’s the biggest one you can think of? The COVID-19 pandemic is one that first comes to mind, but depending on where you are located also environmental factors such as hurricanes, earthquakes, massive snowstorms, etc. may also play a role. But you do have an opportunity on how you will respond to these threats. Yes, you might not be able to control them from happening, but by doing this activity you will be in a way better position.

You can see how doing this exercise will help me develop a very good strategy for the rest of the year. Instead of it feeling like a lot of overwhelming steps or being self-defeating about my weaknesses you can take clear action steps on what opportunities to mitigate the weaknesses and threats and to leverage  strengths.

Now your turn, go ahead and do a quick SWOT!

Step #3 Articulate Boss Mission and Vision Statements

In very simple terms, you need a fantastic mission and vision statements!

Tips for both:

  • No more than 20 words
  • Simple and easy to remember
  • Everyone should have these memorized!

So exactly what are mission and vision statements?

  • mission statement is what you do today.
  • A vision statement is an outcome for the future.

Why are these so important? Well, for one thing, you need to have them when you file for tax-exempt status. The other reasons are equally important. These include:

  • They provide a guide for decision-making, such as ‘we will only apply to grants that meet our mission’
  • They clarify your purpose, activities, and mission
  • They create camaraderie for a common goal amongst board members, staff, and volunteers
  • They communicate your culture to your community

Mission Statement describes what a nonprofit wants to do now

  • What do you want your nonprofit to do in the upcoming year or two?
  • For whom do you do it?
  • What is the benefit?

Go ahead and fill in the blanks to this formula:

NAME OF NONPROFIT does ____________ for ________________ to provide ___________.

My example is:

To create effective systems for grant writers that simplify the nonprofit process, grow capacity & increase funding.

Vision Statement outlines what a nonprofit wants to be in the


  • What do we want to do going forward?
  • When do we want to do it?
  • How do we want to do it?

Go ahead and fill in the blanks to this formula:

Our Vision is to _____________ for __________.

My example is:

A tribe of grant writers drive positive change while having an abundant lifestyle.

Step #4 Find Your Target Demographic

Find your target demographic, i.e. who you serve. This is very important as it might seem like this is a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many start-up nonprofit leaders come to me asking for help getting their nonprofit idea started and I tell them that there are already several nonprofits that serve that specific demographic with that same great idea of a project.

So, it is important to really identify who you will serve. It is not enough to say that you will serve homeless individuals as that is a huge demographic and there are so many services that they need. But if you are going to serve homeless families in your geographic area, that may make more sense because then you can develop specific projects, such as:

  • Transportation to school
  • School uniforms and books
  • Housing units with multiple rooms
  • Parenting classes
  • Financial literacy for families

This goes the same for nonprofit consultants.

  • Are you serving every single nonprofit?
  • Who is your ideal client? Large nonprofits that are well-established? Small, start-ups? Or maybe a specific sector, such as education nonprofits.

Don’t be afraid to go too narrow as it really will help you be specific on connecting to your target demographic.

Step #5 Establish Resource Mapping

Resource mapping is one of my favorite items! This is where you are going to list ALL the resources that you have and plan on having.

You are going to list both, the Monetary Resources, and In-kind Resources that your nonprofit or business has. This includes all the products, services, grants, fundraising, donations, and people.

If you are a nonprofit, your monetary resources may include:

  • Thrift store sales
  • $50,000 annual grant from Foundation X
  • $25,000 in annual giving from individuals
  • $10,000 in annual corporate giving

If you a freelancer, then your monetary resources might include

  • $25,000 annual retainers for writing grants
  • $15,000 one-off grants
  • $10,000 grant research
  • $20,000 in grant writing and nonprofit workshops

If you have been working with nonprofits long enough you know that monetary resources are not the be all end all. In-kind resources are necessary as this includes items that may be donated so it decreases your overall expenses.

If you are a nonprofit, examples of in-kind resources could be:

  • IT services donated at the annual value of $2,000
  • An office room lease donation at the annual value of $12,000
  • Volunteers at the annual value of $50,000

If you are a freelancer, examples of in-kind resources could be:

  • Affiliate partners that help sell your services
  • LinkedIn groups for leads
  • Anything you donate to your business

In any case, it is vital to delineate all these sources and then track what brings in the most money or mitigates spending money. In this way, you might even consider cutting some programs if the finances, people power, and resources are maxed out.

In the full Nonprofit Strategic Planning Master Course, I give you multiple excel sheets with formulas for all of these details and more examples so you can have a handle on where your resources are coming from and where they are going.

Two of the biggest challenges that I hear from both nonprofit leaders and freelancers is their fight with time and energy drain. The biggest contributor to this is operating in a constant priority minded view, i.e. everything is a priority. This ability to identify and break down all of your resources and see where you are spending your time and energy and the return on time and energy is life-changing.

By doing these exercises I have seen both nonprofit leaders and freelancers dramatically increase their quality of life purely by being able to see what really a priority is.

So, outline all your resources and identify resources that are the most beneficial for your nonprofit or business.

Step #6 Define Goals, Objectives, and Activities

Now that you know what you should be prioritizing, it is vital to building goals, objectives, and activities for each project idea.

Goal: A goal is an overarching plan.

For example, if you a nonprofit leader your goal might be:

  • By the end of the year to have secured $500,000 in funding.

If you are a consultant, your goal might be:

  • By the end of the year, to have secured $100,000 in funding.

Objective: The Objectives are what you need to do to specifically reach your goal and it should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

For example, for the nonprofit leader’s goal of securing $500,000 in funding some objectives may include:

  • To apply for 5 federal and 10 foundation grants by the end of the year.
  • To run 3 main fundraisers online.
  • To increase our mailing list from 1,000 to 5,000.
  • To reach out to 20 new corporate sponsors and develop a new sponsor package.

If you a freelancer, some of your objectives to reach your $100,000 goal might be:

  • To reach out to 50 new ‘ideal’ leads
  • To develop a package of services
  • To follow 200 new ideal leads on LinkedIn and join 5 groups and be an active participant
  • To secure 10 new testimonials and publish on the website

Now we come to activities. You can see we are peeling back the onion on this strategy so now you have to actually plan it out. The activities are the specific tasks needed to be completed to reach your objective.

For each objective, create a timeline to include who will implement each activity and when they will start and end each one.

For example, the nonprofit’s objective of applying for 5 federal and 10 foundation grants they will have many different tasks or activities under this objective.

One activity could be: The Executive Director will hire a grant writer by the end of Quarter One to find all grant opportunities.

For the freelancer, you will also have multiple activities under each objective. To reach the objective of “reaching out to 50 new ‘ideal’ leads” one activity might be the following:

The virtual assistant to find 20 virtual conferences (where my target demographic client hangs out) and book me to these by the end of month one.

I love having these activities done in a chart so each week I can just look at my chart to see if I am on target with all my deadlines. I do this for grants, as well, so when the grant is awarded anyone can implement the grant by looking at this chart.

Step #7 Prioritize a Nonprofit’s Projects

Okay, now that you know everything that you want to do, what resources are needed, etc. you can then identify the best projects for the year.

Maybe there is a project you want to develop, but if you accomplish it as an objective it will not move the needle toward your goal. Then you might not consider doing the project.

What you can do is list each project idea that you have, how much it will cost, what resources it will take, how much manpower it will take, and how much time it will take.

If you have a great idea to create a course but after looking at it and seeing that you will need to learn new software skills, invest in an online platform, and will take 100 hours of your time, you might prefer to write a grant instead.

I love this for nonprofit’s too because they get amazing ideas that they start to implement and then realize that it is just going to take too much of their time or expend their resources and it isn’t making a huge impact on their mission.

But if they do this activity first, they can then (once again) prioritize their time to projects that are well-thought-out and will have a drastic impact on their mission.

A lot of times nonprofit leaders will come to me and ask me to help with a gala because, “Oh, my gosh that other nonprofit charged $125 per plate and had 500 people attend so they raised more than $60,000 in one night!” I must remind these wide-eyed nonprofit leaders that the expenses were probably at least 70% of that amount with the cost to rent to the hotel, the cost of food, advertising, etc.

Step #8 Contingency Planning & Logic Model

Okay, we have all learned that things can change in the world really quick. If anything, you have learned that it is important to put a contingency plan in place.  But have you yet?

We need to make sure that for every project that is developed and every activity and objective we schedule that things can happen.

I do this for every grant I write, as well. If something happens how can we ensure that the job will get done?

  • Challenge: What challenges you may face
  • Contingency: What you can put in place to mitigate the challenge
  • Sustainability: What you can put in place to extend the life of the project

For the nonprofit leader, a challenge in being able to apply for 15 grants may be that there are not that many grants that are a good fit that year. Or maybe you have a hard time securing a grant writer.

What will you put in place? Maybe that you will apply for only 10 grants, but you will make sure that the grants amount to $300,000.

For a freelancer, maybe you cannot find 50 best fit leads. So, you must attend more virtual conferences, develop Facebook ads, or actually go door-to-door to nonprofits in your city.

Once you understand the worst that can happen, then you actually have more control over how you will respond to events! It is truly liberating!

Step #9 Develop Strategic Data Management Plans

Alright, you have the best projects and a plan of action on how to advance your nonprofit or business and meet your goals!

Abracadabra! But you need to track your data to know if it is really working. Therefore, if you say your goal is to raise $500,000 for your nonprofit and one objective (or stream of income) in reaching that $500,000 is to secure $300,000 from 15 grants. You did your first step of hiring a grant writer, but how many grants have they identified? What if it gets to the last quarter of the year and they have only applied to 3 grants? Then you are off track.

The same goes for you as a freelancer to secure 50 best leads. If you have only attended one virtual event, two in-person events, and five leads on LinkedIn and it is the fourth quarter you aren’t going to reach your objective or goal. Forget about that $100,000. You’ve made a plan, now you’ve got to work your plan, but to know if your plan is going to get the full outcomes you gotta track your data.

So the things to track!

Objective What will be collected


Who collects the data


How the data will be collected


Frequency of collection


Where will the data be stored Why is the data useful Who will you share the data with
Get 50 Best Leads The number of leads Virtual Assistant Using a shared Google Excel sheet Weekly G-drive To track how many leads and reach out to warm leads None – internal

Step #10 Schedule a Nonprofit’s Calendar

I love laying out an actual calendar and then dividing it into quarters. In this way, you can see exactly what needs to get done when in a visual way.

The other great thing for a calendar view is that it is a reminder of holidays, partner events, and other items that are going on and could impact your schedule.

For example, you might see that a grant is due the same week your grant writer is going to have a baby or that the nonprofit is celebrating its annual event!

Plus, on a calendar view, you can easily see when you need to start planning.

So, once you have your objectives and tasks for the best projects and know how you are going to track your progress, make sure you transfer it over onto a calendar. This could be on a physical calendar you hang up so you can see, or in your google calendar, or if you use software like Asana. But having a visual with other events on it is important.

There you have it! The mini-crash course on Nonprofit Strategic Planning for your nonprofit or freelance biz!

To sum up, the 10 steps are:

  • Step #1 Know Your Values
  • Step #2 Conduct a SWOT Analysis
  • Step #3 Articulate Boss Mission and Vision Statements
  • Step #4 Find Your Target Demographic
  • Step #5 Establish Resource Mapping
  • Step #6 Define Goals, Objectives, and Activities
  • Step #7 Prioritize a Nonprofit’s Projects
  • Step #8 Cultivate Contingency Planning
  • Step #9 Develop Strategic Data Management Plans
  • Step #10 Schedule a Nonprofit’s Calendar

So if you want to make a huge difference in ending the cycle of stressing out about not having enough time, not securing the funding you need, and having real burnout and you want to feel in control of your life, have a higher quality of life, and have a plan that brings in real financial results, then get the Nonprofit Strategic Planning Master Course by June 30th and get $200 off the price!

I want to see you all advance forward in meeting and winning your goals and having a more fulfilling life!

Links in this Episode:

  • Episode #126: 10 Steps to Skyrocket Your Nonprofit or Freelance Biz. Click here
  • Episode: #174: How to Conduct Meaningful Conversations for Effective Nonprofit Strategic Planning. Click here
  • Episode #164: How to Get Rid of Boring SWOT Analysis and Revive Your Strategic Planning. Click here
  • Episode #151: Nonprofit Expert Tips to Create the Best New Year’s Resolution. Click here
  • Episode #124: 4 Reasons to Expand (Not Grow) Your Nonprofit or Freelance Consultancy. Click here.

Listen to the full podcast to get all the details!

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