“Can you share your strategic planning template with us? Can you share a copy of a strategic plan you created for a client?”
These are the top two questions, our team here at Funding for Good receives from organizational leaders who are preparing for their strategic planning process.
We get it!
Why reinvent the wheel if someone else has a ready-to-use tool you can use?
The purpose of today’s article is two-fold. First, we want to explain why most nonprofit consultants are unwilling to share their template or a sample. Second, we want to provide you with a few tips and resources to consider when customizing a strategic planning document, so you do not have to start from scratch!
There are three primary reasons professional consultants opt NOT to share their work product with others:
Consultants customize strategic planning processes and documents to meet the unique needs of each client. The product belongs to the client, and it is unethical to share it without the client’s permission. Most clients are unwilling to share the document created by the consultant. The initial draft of a strategic plan is an internal document that has not been approved by an organization’s board of directors. Upon completing a strategic planning process, a consultant submits a proposed draft to organizational leaders for review and approval. Once the plan is approved, organizations often streamline the plan’s content into marketing tools for public distribution. Most organizations do not want an unedited, unapproved draft of their plan floating around the public.
2. One Size Does Not Fit All
Consultants utilize different approaches to the strategic planning process and templates are customized based on the approach. Potential clients who access a template that was not crafted for their organization might make assumptions about the process and product that are inaccurate. Consultants reserve the right to create proposals and share sample work products that most align with their prospective client’s needs.
3.Templates Are Often Proprietary
Let’s get real. Consultants are running businesses and “the heart does not pay the bills.” Many consultants, like Funding for Good, offer a variety of free and low-cost resources to assist organizations in all stages of development. Professional strategic planning facilitators pour time and money into perfecting their facilitation skills and processes. “Giving it away for free” isn’t always a viable option.
It is a reality that consultants are hesitant to share their core template or client samples.
No worries! There is no one “right way” to format your strategic planning process. There are, however, best practices to consider.
3 Essential Things to Consider When Creating a Written Strategic Plan:
A well-crafted strategic plan should include the following content sections:
1-Cover Page (Header, Logo, Strategic plan dates, etc.)
2-Table of Contents
3-Overview of what the strategic planning process entailed
4-Description of the Organization
5-Core Messaging such as vision, mission, and values
6-Measurable goals and objectives
9-Actions Plan (Aka: Implementation)
10-Appendices (any documentation that provides context such as an organizational profile, capital campaign details, or stakeholder feedback)
The checklist above offers a practical order of content. It is helpful to lead with the greater vision or long-term goals of the organization before addressing short-term and immediate goals.
Less is best for a core document. Consider creating a template using Microsoft Word for easy editing. Remember, the original draft is an internal document and does not need to be fancy! Word tables, font options, smart art, and shapes, offer easy ways to break up the document int digestible pieces.
Once the content has been approved, decision-makers can determine what content should be shared with the public. The final product should be professionally designed (in-house or outsourced) in a way that both excites and engages the community.
When diving into the strategic planning process, decision-makers should define the process and the product and customize a template that takes both into consideration.
Ready to Use Resources:
Samples of strategic plans formatted for public distribution:
*To find additional examples in the future, simply search Google for “strategic plan” along with a reputable organization name to find diverse options. (Sample searches: “strategic plan YMCA,” strategic plan red cross,” “strategic plan habitat,”).
We hope this helps as you continue to grow your organization for good.