5 Free Nonprofit Strategic Planning Templates To Use

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Why is this template useful?

Having a nonprofit strategic plan is very much like using a GPS on your smartphone. This article will explain what a strategic plan is, outline to include in one, and provide some easy-to-use nonprofit strategic plan templates to help you create your own. Let's dive in!

Who is this template for?

This template is for all nonprofit organizations.

What are the main sections covered in this template?

The main sections include: executive summary, mission statement, organization's background, comprehensive stakeholder analysis, SWOT analysis, SMART objectives, and a plan & strategy section.

Having a nonprofit strategic plan is very much like using a GPS on your smartphone. Just like the GPS, a strategic plan gives you step-by-step directions to get your organization to its desired destination. If your nonprofit wants to grow its capabilities to serve, as well as raise more money, you need to have a strategic plan. 

This article will explain what a strategic plan is, outline what to include in one, and provide some easy-to-use nonprofit strategic plan templates to help you create your own. 

Let’s go! 

What Is a Nonprofit Strategic Plan?

A nonprofit strategic plan acts as a blueprint, charting out your organization’s way forward over the next several years. 

An effective strategic plan identifies your nonprofit’s mission, what you hope to achieve, and a way forward to get there. 

A nonprofit strategic plan shouldn’t just list your organization’s goals—it should also outline specific strategies for realizing those goals. You should also be frequently referencing your strategic plan to evaluate whether those strategies are working or if you need to pivot. Rather than sitting on a shelf in a dusty binder, many nonprofits now choose to host their strategic plans online for easy access and reference. 

Typically, a nonprofit strategic plan covers a three- to five-year period, but after the pandemic, some nonprofits have pivoted to a two-year plan. 

Today’s strategic planning—especially for nonprofits—is forward focused and adaptive in nature, instead of static. Because strategic planning isn’t a “one-and-done” proposition, it requires flexibility, imagination, and a steady hand from leadership. 

Why Do Nonprofits Need a Strategic Plan?

Without a strategic plan, nonprofits risk drifting aimlessly and becoming stagnant. If you want to be part of a dynamic nonprofit team doing the most good for society and creating a real impact, then your organization most definitely needs a strategic plan.

Here are some of the top reasons why having a strategic plan is so essential:

A Strategic Plan Provides Organizational Alignment

A nonprofit strategic plan helps provide alignment and agreement between your board, your staff, and your organization’s leadership.  

Creating a strategic plan requires the involvement and input from a wide range of stakeholders. Your Executive Director, your Board Chair, your Chief Financial Officer, your most senior development person, and your Marketing Director should all be part of the development process.

By identifying your goals and challenges together, a strategic plan will help keep your entire team on the same page so that you can work harmoniously toward a shared vision. 

A Strategic Plan Helps Secure More Funding

A nonprofit strategic plan can also help your organization secure more grants, corporate funding, and even individual major gifts. 

In a recent survey, 86 percent of participating nonprofits said having a strategic plan has a positive impact on raising more money.

Funders and donors often want to give to organizations that have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and how they are going to get there. Creating a strategic plan can show supporters that your nonprofit has a solid plan in place and is financially sound and stable.  

A Strategic Plan Helps Improve Individual and Team Performance

Having a well-implemented strategic plan positions your nonprofit to meet both its short- and long-term goals. 

Identifying your organizational goals and the steps to take to achieve them allows you to set clear performance standards. Often referred to as KPIs, key performance indicators can help you understand and evaluate the efficacy of your strategies. If your proposed strategies aren’t giving you the results you were hoping to see, you can then adapt or change those strategies as needed.

Here is a list of some of the most common nonprofit KPIs:

  • Number of clients served 
  • Program results
  • Client satisfaction
  • Year-over-year growth
  • Operating surplus/deficit
  • Unrestricted net assets 
  • Revenue
  • Gifts secured
  • Number of donors
  • Number of donors upgrading their gift
  • Number of donors retained
  • Cost to raise a dollar
  • Donor conversions channel by channel
  • Website page views
  • Email open rates
  • Email click-through rates

A good nonprofit strategic plan also helps your leadership (your board and your executive team) evaluate how well your organization has performed. 

What to Include in a Nonprofit Strategic Plan

While all strategic plans will look a little different, there are a few elements that every strategic plan should include. 

An Executive Summary

Not everyone who comes across your nonprofit’s strategic plan will have the time (or need) to read the entire thing. Starting off your plan with an executive summary gives you the opportunity to share a brief overview of the key points of your plan with your audience. 

(An executive summary can also be a grant-making secret weapon when included with a grant proposal.) 

Your Organization’s Mission and Vision

Your entire strategic plan should center around your nonprofit’s mission and vision—so both of these things should be highlighted clearly at the beginning of your plan. 

Below is a page from Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties’ 2020 Strategic Plan. See how they purposefully include their mission and vision statement at the very start of their plan to guide and direct the rest of the content in the document.

When including your mission and vision statements in your strategic plan, make sure to ask yourself whether there has been any mission drift since the statements were first created. If there has been, there needs to be frank internal discussion about how to get back on track (and how your strategic plan can help get you there). 

A Comprehensive Stakeholder Analysis 

While your strategic plan should primarily focus on the future of your nonprofit, it should also take into account where your organization stands currently. A great way to do this is through a comprehensive stakeholder analysis. 

Typically, a nonprofit’s stakeholders include your board, community partners, donors, management, and the clients you serve. To gain perspective on your organization and its services, you can anonymously survey some of these stakeholders to get a better idea of where your nonprofit is succeeding and where some gaps may exist. 

Once data collection is complete, it will be fairly simple to analyze key findings and trends and incorporate what you’ve learned into the rest of your strategic plan. 

A SWOT Analysis

Every strategic plan should include a comprehensive SWOT analysis. 

A SWOT analysis takes a look at your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. By identifying internal and external issues, you’ll be able to more clearly see where your organization should head in the future—and what strategies will best help you get there. 

You can check out this SWOT analysis template and more examples here

Once you synthesize the analysis’ findings, you’ll be well on your way to prioritizing your organizational goals and developing an effective nonprofit strategic plan.

SMART Objectives

The most successful strategic plans use SMART objectives—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound objectives. 

Your strategic plan should carefully outline the goals your organization has over the next 3-5 years. Based on the findings of your SWOT analysis, what sort of things do you hope to accomplish in the coming years? Is there a need to renovate your facilities or add additional space? Are more personnel needed to facilitate program delivery? 

Remember to make sure to stay SMART during this process—you don’t want to include objectives that are vague, difficult to measure, or unrealistic for your organization to accomplish. 

Again, there must be full agreement between your board and your executive leadership team about these goals, so make sure that they are all included in the development of these objectives. 

Specific Strategies and KPIs

Once you have identified your goals and objectives, it’s finally time to determine specific strategies that will help you achieve them. 

What specific activities will help your organization attain its goals? What is the timeline for these activities, and who is responsible for carrying them out? 

Next, you can determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure the success of these strategies. 

Remember, a KPI is a measure of performance over time to meet a specific objective. For example, if one of your goals is to increase your nonprofit’s brand recognition on social media, one of your KPIs might be to measure the number of new followers week by week. If you see no measurable change, then you know it’s probably time to come up with a different strategy to meet that objective. 

Board Approval

Once the draft of your strategic plan has been finalized, it needs to be presented to your board and formally approved. Should they push back, you and your team will need to readjust the plan to suit their suggestions. 

Once your board has approved your strategic plan, it’s time to implement it. A strategic plan is a wonderful tool, but only if it is acted upon. Follow up quarterly to make sure everyone is working toward their goals and figure out ways to get back on track should something look worrying.

Finally, share your plan widely. Your funders, donors, and corporate partners should all receive a copy of your plan. You can also consider putting your strategic plan on your website as well. Sharing your plan is a great way to keep your organization accountable and transparent. 

4 Nonprofit Strategic Plan Templates

Now that you have an idea about the different elements that go into creating a strategic plan, let’s look at some free nonprofit strategic planning templates you can use to get started on your own.

Simple Strategic Plan Template for a Small Nonprofit

A business plan? For a nonprofit? Remember, it’s your IRS tax-exempt status that makes your organization a nonprofit. Otherwise, it should be run like a business—which is why we’ve included this template that the good folks at Dropbox have created. They’ve put together another online tool called FormSwift where you’ll find free templates for all manner of legal forms and tax-related documents. 

Once you’ve nailed down your SMART goals and KPIs, you can build your nonprofit business plan here rather quickly, which is especially great if you’re a small or fledgling nonprofit.

Short and Succinct Strategic Plan Template

This simple and free strategic plan template is downloadable in Word from Projectmanager.com. They also have an array of numerous different templates in Excel and PDF. 

What we like about this template is that it’s comprehensive—it includes a SWOT analysis, SMART goals, and KPIs.

Complete Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template in Word

Download this free strategic planning template in Word that’s perfect for small to midsize nonprofits. Not only does this template guide you in your strategic plan process, it also includes an acknowledgement page to give shout-outs to everyone on your strategic planning task force. Thanks Tools4Dev!

Strategic Planning Template in Excel

Who knew that you could generate a strategic plan in Excel? Software company Cascade offers a free strategic planning template that can easily be customized for a nonprofit organization. What we think is pretty marvelous is that once all the various sheets are completed, the template automatically generates the plan.

One-Page Strategic Plan Template for Nonprofits

The brains behind the OnePage Nonprofit Business Plan offer a free Word download of their one-page template. This template is especially useful if your nonprofit is just starting out. 

Timeline for Nonprofit Strategic Planning

Convening your stakeholders, conducting data analysis, and gaining buy-in from your strategic planning task force all takes time. How much time?

We’ve broken down the strategic planning process into three phases to help you create an effective timeline that works for your organization:

  • Phase I: Surveying stakeholders, analyzing the existing environment, and conducting your SWOT analysis should take about three months 
  • Phase II: Developing SMART objectives, strategies to meet your goals, and choosing KPIs should take one to two months. .
  • Phase III: Writing the executive summary, finalizing the plan, and presenting it for board approval should take another month or two at the most.

Keep in mind that your organization’s culture will weigh heavily into the length of your timeline. If you work at a university, a college, or a prestigious arts organization, the pace may be much slower. That’s especially true when the strategic plan includes a huge undertaking like a capital campaign.

Here’s an added bonus! You can download a sample timeline for strategic planning from the Nonprofit Association of Washington. .

Wrapping Up: Nonprofit Strategic Planning

A strategic plan for a nonprofit is a necessity, not a “nice-to-have”. And to do one well, it requires wide buy-in, casting an unbiased eye at the organization’s health and services, and high stakeholder involvement. 

Creating a strategic plan is hard work, but it’s work worth doing. We hope that the insights and templates shared in this post will help you develop an effective roadmap for your nonprofit so that you can achieve your long-term goals.

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