What are the benefits of strategic planning?
We all know strategic planning benefits organizations. But too often nonprofit leaders think of strategic planning as “nice to have” rather than “must have.” When we’re struggling through schedules packed with Zoom meetings and conference calls, it can be hard to imagine carving out time for long-term visioning and planning.
So here at Funding for Good, we thought it would be worth exploring some of the many benefits of strategic planning—for both organizations and their leaders.
5 Key Benefits of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Leaders
Benefit #1: Increase Support from Your Staff and Board
Leading a nonprofit can be a lonely endeavor at times. Executive Directors are charged with guiding their organization to success. This includes everything from achieving the organization’s vision and mission, to ensuring financial sustainability (which means both fundraising and budget oversight), to creating an environment where diverse team members can succeed. It’s a lot for one person to carry on their shoulders.
Which is why the strategic planning process is designed to get board and staff leadership aligned and “rowing in the same direction.” Your organization’s strategic planning retreat will create space for your team to share challenges and develop solutions together. A skilled strategic planning facilitator will guide your team to a consensus about your organization’s goals, strategies, and indicators of success, as well as delving into the challenges you may face and how to do so as a team.
Knowing that your board and staff have your back—and will be there to support you—is a huge benefit of strategic planning for nonprofit leaders.
Read more: The 10 Main Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Executive Director
Benefit #2: Give Your Organization—and Yourself—a Roadmap for Success
Your strategic plan will serve as a roadmap for your organization’s success. It will include:
- A refined vision and mission statement that can inspire your staff, board, donors, clients and community members alike.
- An analysis of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (also known as a SWOT analysis).
- Your organizational goals over a 3–5-year time horizon.
- The strategies and activities you will deploy to achieve those goals, including a multi-year timeline.
- The capacity, resources and funding you’ll need to secure for this work.
- Indicators that will enable you to know when you’ve achieved your organization’s goals and help you decide when course corrections are needed.
Having these resources in one place—and having a board and staff leadership team that understands what it will truly take to achieve your goals—is invaluable.
Benefit #3: Get Clear about Performance Expectations
One main responsibility of a nonprofit Board of Directors is managing and evaluating the Executive Director. A strategic planning process gives both the board and the Executive Director the tools to align on clear performance expectations. This can enable a shift—at both the leadership and staff levels—toward evaluating performance based on outcomes rather than solely activities.
There are myriad benefits to this approach, including supporting flexibility and diversity in your workplace. As well, it means less surprises for you, your staff, and your board come annual reviews.
Benefit #4: Prioritize Your Time More Strategically
Your strategic plan provides a guide for which programs and activities are most important, and which are not. The planning process may even enable your organization to tackle mission creep, scaling back projects that aren’t central to advancing your mission.
The result will be a set of clear metrics that enable you to better assess when to say no. And yes, we know saying no can feel impossibly hard when there is so much community need. But the truth is that sometimes doing less, but doing it more strategically, can have an even greater impact.
Benefit #5: Sleep Better with Strategic Planning
It’s a miracle that nonprofit leaders ever have time for sleep. But strategic planning can give you a boost on this front too.
One of the top reasons people struggle to sleep is rumination. According to psychologists, you can beat rumination and get better sleep by practicing “constructive worrying.” This entails outlining the worries on your mind and problem-solving solutions—all before you crawl into bed. This way, your mind will be more settled and confident that the issue will be handled (during waking hours).
Strategic planning is like a large-scale collective version of “constructive worrying.” Between your SWOT analysis, written strategy, and aligned work plans, you’ll have tackled the big picture challenges ahead of your organization.
Of course, your organization may face unexpected setbacks that keep you up at night on occasion. But the big picture elements of leading a nonprofit—financial sustainability, mission, programming, and a plan to evaluate it all—will already be handled. And when new problems do arise, you’ll be better prepared to tackle them.
The Strategic Planning Process
The 10 Main Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Executive Director
Managing the Executive Director: The Board’s Top Five Responsibilities
Get Your Free Pre-Strategic Planning Checklist
This easy-to-use tool is the perfect place to begin strategic planning. Download it, print it out, and check off tasks as you go!