Strategic Planning involves selecting a facilitator. Are you diving into the strategic planning process but still have doubts about who should facilitate and what to expect?

Before we clarify the role of the facilitator, organizations must understand the difference between the role of a facilitator, educator, and consultant.

While many nonprofit development professionals might offer all three of those services, different processes, products, and expectations are associated with each role.

Educators provide instruction designed to explain “what you need to know,” while consultants offer expert advice and help you decide “how you might apply it.”

Facilitation is both a science and an art. Selecting a facilitator is important.

Facilitators serve as neutral agents who “plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved.” Professional facilitators often utilize evidence-based processes to guide focused conversations allow groups to engage in more efficient and effective discussions. They observe the energy in the room and artfully channel it to lead to a product such as a written strategic plan. It’s important to understand this when selecting a facilitator.

10 Roles of the Strategic Planning Facilitator

  1. Provide a framework for the process through advanced planning
  2. Provide unbiased objectivity during the session
  3. Listen actively
  4. Craft intentional questions designed to keep the group focused on their meeting goals
  5. Keep time
  6. Create an inclusive and safe atmosphere
  7. Foster individual participation
  8. Encourage honest and intentional communication
  9. Strive to foster consensus building within the group
  10. Guide the group’s action planning and reflection processes

Sounds easy, right?

Many organizations realize that completing a thorough strategic planning process while balancing diverse opinions, personalities, and priorities, can get tricky.

Whether you seek a professional who is willing to volunteer their time or charge you a fee, it is essential to know what to expect from your strategic planning facilitator.

Here are the top 10 Things You Should Expect from a Facilitator

  1. A detailed description of their PROCESS

What does their approach to strategic planning include during the pre-planning, planning, and product delivery phases?

       2. Overview of their facilitation STYLE

Will they engage the group in ice-breaker games, use electrics, videos, or other mediums in the session?

      3. Confirmation of strategic planning METHOD

Do they use an evidence-based method or a process they have created and successfully used with other clients?

      4. Outline of “who does what?”

Can they provide you with pre-planning checklists and a written contract that defines necessary actions along with the roles and responsibilities of  all parties?

      5. Key timelines

Do they communicate timelines associated with both pre-planning processes and time allocations for the formal components of the strategic planning process?

      6. Cost of service

Can they provide you a written contract that includes a flat fee for service, so you are not surprised by the final sum of their  “hourly rates?”

      7. Scope of work

Can they outline what is included in the scope of work? Consider how many years your plan will cover and the level of content associated with each year of planning.

      8. Space Requirements

Can they provide detailed space and set-up requirements to ensure that the meeting location contributes to an organized and productive process?

     9. Description of the final PRODUCT

Do they capture all the strategic planning conversations and content in a professionally formatted document, or do they expect you to produce the written plan?

   10. Referrals

Can they provide referrals from other individuals or organizations who have completed the strategic planning process and are willing to share their experiences?


Now that you know the role of the facilitator and what to expect from a facilitator, hopefully you will be able to conduct a search to find the best facilitator for your group.


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