Strategic planning is critical to a nonprofit organization's future direction and survival. As such, it is important to understand what strategic planning is and why it is so important. This article provides a definition of strategic planning and why it is important to nonprofit organizations.

Wikipedia defines strategic planning as “an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.” Strategic planning is the formal consideration of an organization's future course. All strategic planning deals with at least one of three key questions:

1. The first key question is “What do we do?” This relates to the organization's vision and mission. An organization's vision is broad... it is the final goal the organization aspires to achieve. The organization's mission is a statement describing how the organization is going to meet its vision. For example, an organization's vision might be to employ all persons with disabilities. Its mission might be “Through the provision of vocational counseling, job seeking skills training, and job development and placement, assist persons with disabilities to gain or retain meaningful employment.”

2. The second key question is “For whom do we do it?” The organization needs to be clear about who its clients are in order to develop or modify programs and services to meet their needs.

3. The third key question is “How do we excel?” This question relates to how well the organization is doing and what it could be doing better to best meets the needs of its clients. It also reminds the organization to assess its competition and develop a strategy to be the premier agency in its field.

Although these three questions should always be considered when developing, modifying, or deleting programs and services, it is also important that they be addressed before and during the strategic planning process. The answers to these questions will help the organization to determine its direction, exactly where it stands, where it wants to go, and how it will get there. The resulting document is called the "strategic plan."

Strategic planning is a process organizations should engage in on an ongoing basis, regardless of the length of the plan. Some organizations engage in tactical planning, which is essentially a one year strategic plan. Tactical plans are developed when an organization is brand new or develops a new program or service that wasn't included in the original strategic plan. Generally, however, most strategic plans are 3-5 years. Although some plans could be longer, it is difficult to predict opportunities, threats, and trends in the field beyond three years. Whether the plan’s duration is one year or longer, the important thing to keep in mind is developing a plan that strategically moves the organization in the right direction.

Without strategic planning and a resulting plan of action, the organization will not have a clear idea of what it is doing, why it is doing it, and where it is going. If there are no goals and objectives in place to address stakeholder issues/concerns, improve programs/services, or grow the organization, it may not be able to continue meeting the needs of the very people it is supposed to serve. In addition, the lack of a plan could compromise public trust, result in a loss of funding, or prevent the organization from pursuing new funding opportunities and partnerships. Without planning, an organization becomes stagnant.

Copyright 2010 © Sharon L. Mikrut, All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

If you want to make positive changes in your professional life, and create the job or career you desire and deserve, then working with Executive & Life Coach, Sharon L. Mikrut, is the solution. Although her specialty is in partnering with nonprofit executive directors and managers to maximize their resources in a competitive environment, she is passionate about working with all individuals committed to personal and/or professional growth. Visit her website (, Nonprofit Professionals blog (, or Empowerment blog ( and sign up for her free nonprofit or life coaching newsletter.