Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning: Planning That Works


Planning that works

Clarify the Mission

Identify Market Niche

Establish Strategic Priorities


Mission Clarification

  • Mission must be the cornerstone of any action taken by a nonprofit organization. It is not uncommon to find differing understandings (sometimes vastly so) of the mission among board and staff members. It is essential that the governance team be “on the same page.” Mission clarification will identify a “mission principle”–the concept articulating the central meaning of the mission. This is the foundation of the plan.

Market Niche

  • Identification of the organization’s unique area of excellence in service enables more focused programming, clearer communication, and greater success in fundraising.

Strategic Priorities: Finding Focus

  • strategy is an organizing principle that coordinates action. Strategy helps identify those things that should be done and, perhaps even more importantly, those that should not. With strategies selected, actions can be prioritized and assigned to responsible parties. (Click here to read Reclaiming Strategy)
  • Strategic principles are the unifying concepts that serve as the basis for making choices and decisions about programming and the application of organizational resources. In any planning process, they guide the selection of priorities on which to focus.
  • Strategic Priorities are the areas (usually no more than three) on which an organization will focus its energies and resources for the period the plan covers. These are selected as subsets of and means of furthering overarching strategic principles.


What makes the Strategic Priorities approach  different?            

  • No loss of momentum during planning
  • Enhances decision-making
  • Ensures focus
  • Results in usable tools and quantifiable results

Traditional planning often yields to-do lists that are simply too long to be accomplished. The individual items may all be worth doing but typically they are not directly related to one another and result in diluted impact. Unlike a to-do list, strategic priorities can serve as a filter for every decision and activity undertaken by the organization. They also provide a way to make decisions about exciting new opportunities during the planning process. 


Even if your organization has a strategic plan in place, establishing strategic priorities can enhance focus and provide a framework for coordinated action.


Click here to read A Planning Primer by Doug Borwick.