The most important deliverable and implementation
tool you are required to develop as an organisation
is your strategic plan. A strategic plan is a document
that detailes your disciplined steps for arriving at key
organisational decisions, priorities and agreeing on
actions that will shape and guide your organisation
on what, why, when and how to meet its vision and
mission. A good strategic plan takes the vision and
mission approved by the Board and translates it into
an overarching plan that the Board must approve
Too often we have seen many nonprofits running
without a written strategic plan as the Founder or
Executive Director seems to have it all written in his
or her head. A written strategic plan is an important
document that should be publicly available to all
staff, beneficiaries and critical stakeholders. A written
strategic plan serves the following purposes:
What should be the life span of a strategic
- Serves as an accountability tool for measuring the
organisations implementation of its vision and
- A basis for which to develop annual organisational
work plan and budget against which organisational
progress can be measured.
- Forms the basis for decisions to allocate and
source for resources both financial and human.
We encourage well established organisations
to plan for at least 5 years. Small and medium sized
organisations are advised to plan for 3 years. Smaller,
newer or less financially secured organisations
may find it more useful to have an annual work plan
instead. Note that a strategic plan is a living document
and should be revisited annually to reflect new
developments that may have taken place over the
for a sample of
NNNGO’s strategic plan.
10 Key steps to strategic planning and questions
Step 1: Preparatory phase
Step 2: Decide on the scope of work
- Which staff, volunteer, board member,
beneficiaries will be involved in the process?
- What exact role will they play?
- How will our partner organisations,
counterparts, members, beneficiaries
- Who outside of the organisation will take
part and what external perspectives or
experiences do we want them to bring into
- What is the timetable for delivering the plan
and how much time will each member of the
team need to allocate to the process?
- Who will be responsible for doing the work
relating to the desk research component
(collecting relevant document) of the
- Who will be responsible for ensuring
discussions and decisions taken are properly
documented (written notes)
Who will be responsible for providing
administrative support for the planning
Start this step with discussions around what the
organisation must do and other things that it must
not do. This conversation must be driven by legal
laws, own organisation policies/governing document,
agreement with donors/partners or stakeholders.
You can use the following questions to shape the
- Why were we established as an organisation?
- What laws, policies, agreements, values,
principles influence the way we operate?
- Are there external legislation and agreements
that can affect our operations?
- How do this external legislation and
agreements affect our operations?
- What internal rules and regulations influence
our work as an organisation?
- What influence do stakeholders have on
the service, programmes or activities of the
- What is possible and impossible for us to do
given all of the above.
Step 3: External Scan
How to do a stakeholder analysis
- Through a brainstorming session develop
a list of who has an influence over the
- Decide which of those on the list are most
- Map the stakeholders with the strongest
- Analyse what each stakeholder wants from
the organisation and how they rate or judge
your organisations success. A questionnaire
or physical meeting to determine this may be
helpful. It is also safe to assume or guess.
- Ascertain if the analysis of your stakeholder
is in line with your vision, mission and work
or there are some demands or expectations
that need to be clarified.
- What are the opportunities in the external
environment that we can seize?
- What are the threats in the external
environment that we need to overcome?
- Which groups of people are most affected by
the issues we are working on?
- What are the social, economic, political,
technological and environmental trends that
make our beneficiaries vulnerable?
- What we already doing to address this as an
- What are other agencies and stakeholders
doing to address these issues?
Note that this questions are best framed based on
the organisations aims as outlined in its governing
document and what it is legally bound to do given its
mandate and scope of work identified in step 2.
Step 4: Internal Review
- What are the strengths of the organisation
that can help it to overcome the threats?
- What weaknesses in the organisation need
to be addressed to seize the opportunities?
- What makes our organisation unique?
- What main lessons can be learnt from
our implementation of current or past
- What are the organisations biggest
achievements since it was formed?
- What areas need improvement?
- What are the main lessons learned since the
organisation was founded?
A SWOC analysis (strength, weakness, opportunities,
constraints) can help in achieving this.
Step 5: Identifying strategic issues
Activities from steps 1 to 4 help to arrive at what
strategic issues the organisation should focus on as
by the time these steps are completed attention
would already be focusing on the real important
issues, major choices facing the organisation, areas
needing change and insights about how to resolve
Strategic issues are best written or framed as questions
as this will highlight areas where the organisation
needs to make choices and decisions. The aim,
scope of work, external and internal environment
scan and the results of the SWOC analysis will help
shape the strategic issues.
In framing the issues, the following questions will
need to be answered:
- Can the organisation justify why this is a
- Is the organisation able to do anything about
- Will the organisation make significant impact
by addressing the issue?
- What implications do the issue have on the
organisations finance and human resources?
- Will the issue still be relevant in the next 2
- What are the consequence if this issue is not
For example an organisation working on family planning
has noticed an increase on the number of people
not able to access family planning in communities
across their state of operation. A trends analysis suggests
that this is likely to increase given the budgetary
allocations to family planning by the State in the last 3
years. The organisation already supports 2 communities
out of about 700. Opportunities to expand their
support to other parts of the state are constrained by
funding and adequate human resources.
Strategic issue: Given our existence in the 2 communities
out of 700 and our dwindling funding situation
including lack of human capacity, should the organisation
develop its work further to be able to expand to
at least 100 communities?
Step 6: Defining Strategic Aim
By now you would already have a long list of strategic
issues, it is important to start narrowing them down
at this stage to three or four. The following strategic
questions will help in achieving this.
- How can the strategic issues be merged?
- Which of the issues should we prioritise?
In the end you want a list of issues that are still
relevant in the next three to five years ahead stated
while accurately stating what the organisation wants
to do and how it intends to do this during this time.
Using the strategic issue in Step 6 to form an aim,
we could frame a strategic aim like this: To improve
access to family planning services among 100 communities
in XYZ State, working in partnership with
the local CBOs and the State Government.
Step 7: Define the strategies
Strategies are the “roads” the organisation plans to
take as it works towards achieving the strategic aim
identified in step 6. It defines the big picture and
priorities over the coming three to five years. Key
questions to be considered are outlined below:
- What is the most appropriate path to pursue
in addressing the identified strategic aims?
- What methods (approaches) would be used
for realising each of the strategic aims?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages
of these methods?
- What method or combination of methods
would we use in realising each strategic aim?
- Whom will we collaborate with?
- Who will be our partner or counterpart in
realising our strategic aims?
An example of strategy to help realise the strategic
aim in step 6 could be:
To improve access to family planning services among
100 communities in XYZ State working in partnership
with the local CBOs and the state government.
Step 8: Identify resource needs
- Undertake in-depth needs assessment of
family planning needs in the 100 communities
where the organisation will be working.
- Secure commitment of the State to allocate
- Fund community family health services in 100
communities across the state
- Provide capacity building to healthcare
professionals in communities where the
organisation has interventions
- Secure additional funds to expand from
the present 2 communities to 100 new
As soon as the strategies are identified for each of
the three or four strategic aims or priorities, working
out what the human and financial elements needed
to achieve the plan over a three to five year period is
an imperative. These serve as a strong foundation for
the development of an internal capacity plan (step 9)
and costing of the strategic plan (step 10).
Key questions to consider for the financial resources
Key human resources questions to be raised include:
- What financial resources do we currently
have and for which aspect of the plan?
- Where do these resources come
from(local/international donor, government,
- Are there new funders that can be
- What new sources of funding can be
- How can we be resourceful in our approach
to funding the plan?
Step 9: Internal Capacity Building Plan
- What skills and experience are currently
available to the organisation in realising the
- What are the skill and experience gaps that
exist within the organisation?
- How can we fill these gaps?
- Do we have the right balance and mix
within our management (finance and
administration) and programme staff
(advocacy, communication, project, capacity
The internal capacity building plan helps to specify
which areas the organisation needs capacity and
how this will be addressed. Usually the capacity gaps
would have emerged from discussions during the
SWOC and possibly when discussing strategies to
achieve a specific aim. Where it happens the issue
of capacity is mentioned under a strategic aim, it is
important to ensure that it is linked directly to that
aim and not separately.
Step 10: Costing the Strategic Plan
At this stage this is where issues around budgeting
come in. This step focuses on the amount of money
needed to implement the strategic plan. Here the
inputs required for each strategy in terms of people,
equipment, services and materials are identified and
costed. Costs can be categorised into recurrent office
costs, management costs and direct programme costs
(e.g. workshops, research and advocacy costs etc).
The organisations income needs to be assessed to
identify existing funds or pledged and gaps or new
areas that are not funded. The gaps in funding should
be translated into a fundraising strategy.