Strategic Plan for Non-Profits

Does your organization need a strategic plan, even if it's a small non-profit entirely powered by volunteers? Yes. Yes, it does, especially if it's a small non-profit powered entirely by volunteers. I've worked with many non-profit organizations since 2013 and have helped them with strategic planning and websites; I recently worked with the Nicola Valley Community Arts Council to create their strategic plan, and here's what their president Mischelle Pierce said about the process:


"The Nicola Valley Community Arts Council was fortunate to hire the services of Kerstin Auer of Auer Freelance for our Strategic Plan. We had been wanting to create an overall plan for our organization for the last couple of years. Kerstin made doing our Strategic Plan an enjoyable learning experience which helped us focus on what our business model should look like and create some realistic goals.


The process Kerstin took us through was direct and thoughtful, eliciting our most important focuses and challenges. With her respectful guidance we were able to integrate our groups’ inspirations and ideas for solutions. From our ideas, Kerstin pulled together a comprehensive Strategic Plan for our Arts Council that will help us to focus on our priorities over the next few years. 


We would highly recommend Kerstin as someone who is passionate about working with small businesses to create a plan that will help them achieve their vision."


Why does your organization need a strategic plan? Here's what I've learned over the years:

it Levels the playing field

I have never heard of a non-profit organization that does not struggle internally with strong personalities. Those strong personalities are what keeps an organization going, but it's also what causes real problems when trying to move forward with goals and new ideas. By establishing a strategic plan with a vision and mission to move forward for the next 3-5 years you level the playing field and give every member the feeling that it's about moving the organization forward, and not about bowing to the loudest voices within it.


it attracts new volunteers

One of the biggest challenges for any non-profit - whether it's in a small town or in a large city - is to recruit and retain volunteers. Sometimes it even feels like you have to headhunt volunteers and pry them away from other organizations. Plus, word goes around; this is not only true for small town. The non-profit space is vast and intimately small at the same time, with a few dedicated people being very well connected and spreading the word about opportunities and caveats. Creating a strategic plan shows that you're serious about growing the organization and doing as much good as you can.


it enables you to Raise more money

Grants are the bread and butter for non-profits; while funding was plentiful during the pandemic, many of the sources have dried up and the competition for funding is fierce. A strategic plan is often asked about during the grant application process, and being able to check that box can't hurt the chances of being awarded funds. A strategic plan also sends the right message to private donors, who might be concerned with more than a tax receipt and want to ensure that their donation goes a long way in making a difference for the cause.


What should be part of your organization's strategic plan?

A strategic plan for non-profits contains the following elements:

  • Executive summary (message from the board of directors)
  • Organizational overview and historic background
  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Guiding Values and how they apply to the daily operations
  • Organizational voice
  • Market of the organization (who they serve)
  • Challenges
  • Strategic direction and goals (with a roadmap for each goal)
  • Contact info

Do you know what all those elements are for your organization? Are they organized in a comprehensive document you can present to your members, sponsors, and donors? I'd love to help with that if you don't. Reach out to me via the contact form on this site, or send me an email to hello@kerstin.ca and let's talk.