Linda Lysakowski ACFRE

Whether you are a small business, a major corporation, or a nonprofit organization, you need a strategic plan. Businesses, and sometimes nonprofits, may refer to this as a business plan, and the two concepts are very close. What makes the plan strategic is that you will identify strategies to help meet your goals and objectives.

All organizations, for-profit and nonprofit, have goals. The overarching goal for most for-profits is to make money for the shareholders, partners, or owners. However, a business also has other goals—to be socially responsible, to be a good corporate citizen, to create a good work environment for its employees, to serve a need of its clients or customer, etc. So all its goals will not revolve around the bottom line.

A nonprofit will have similar goals–to remain or become financially viable; to serve its clients; to have a happy, well-trained, professional staff; to help solve a community need. Sounds a lot like the for-profit plan, right?

What’s the difference between a plan for a nonprofit?

Two things that make nonprofit plans different are that there is a charitable component to most nonprofits; many rely heavily on charitable donations. Although nonprofits usually also have a revenue-generating model that might include fee-for-services, or social enterprise, even a for-profit part of their organization, for many donations are crucial to their existence. So a great part of a nonprofit’s strategic plan often revolved around fundraising and a development plan (see article on page xx) will be part of the overall strategic plan.

Another big difference is that the role of the board of a nonprofit is different from the role of a board of a for-profit entity. The board of a nonprofit has the role of governance and oversight in addition to, in most cases, fundraising. So board development is a huge issue for nonprofits. Very seldom does the board gets voted in by members, and being a major “stockholder” does not enable board members to wield influence over the nonprofit organization. So board development is often a major division of the nonprofit’s strategic plan.

Back to similarities.

No matter whether your plan is for nonprofit or a for-profit company, some things that will common to both:

  • The plan will have overall goals (such as those listed above)
  • Every goal must have measurable objectives (we often call these objectives SMART—they must be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-defined.
  • Strategies answer the question—“How are we going to achieve our objectives and, as a result, our goals?”
  • Strategic plans must be translated into departmental work plans which include timelines, areas of responsibility, and budgets.

So, at the beginning of this New Year, if you don’t have strategic plan, get ready to do one. If you already have one, it might be time to update it, and by all means, evaluate the plan you have and see if your goals, objectives, and strategies are still viable. And are departmental plans on track?

For more on strategic plans for nonprofits see Nonprofit Strategic Planning, co-authored by Lynne Dean, CFRE and Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. You can find the book at www.LindaLysakowski.com.