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Strategic planning is the process by which an organization envisions its future and develops the necessary procedures and operations to achieve that future. The basic steps of the strategic planning process include information gathering and analysis, identification of critical issues facing the organization, development of a strategic vision, mission review/revision and the development of strategic goals and strategies.
Simply put, strategic planning determines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it's going to get there and how it'll know if it got there or not. 
Advantage Consulting Services provides trainings and workshops, as well as facilitation for strategic planning retreats.
If you have any questions about strategic planning, or if you would like more information about additional resources or the services we provide, please contact us by sending an email stating your questions or your specific request for information.

Why should an organization do strategic planning?

The primary motive for organizations to do strategic planning is to learn and to make decisions about the future of the organization based on that learning. There are many specific reasons for an organization to initiate a strategic planning process, including the following:

  • To give the organization better control over external forces
  • To serve as a tool for decision making and resource allocation
  • To bring everyone together in the organization so that they are on the same wavelength
  • To raise board members’ awareness of current issues and operations
  • To reawaken and motivate key people within the organization
  • To position the agency for a merger or joint venture
  • To create a document suitable for fundraising and public relations
  • To increase morale within an organization and develop a sense of trust and cohesion
  • To set the stage for the organization to make a "quantum leap" to a new level of program development or functioning
  • To relate organizational capacity to community need.
Basics of Writing and Communicating a Strategic Plan
Writing the Plan

1. Have a small number of people write the first draft of the plan.

2. Don’t worry about having every last detail in the first draft.

3. The draft should be presented to the board of directors (if applicable) and upper management for review and approval. It's not unusual for the board and/or top management of large organizations to provide major input primarily to the contents in the body of the document, that is, the mission and vision and values statements, and the goals and strategies. Employees and other staff often provide the major input to the action planning portion, including the objectives, responsibilities and timelines for completion of objectives.

Format of the Plan

Note that it's wise to distribute copies of the plan to major stakeholders (investors/funders, trade associations, etc.). Therefore, you should organize the format of the plan such that the body of the plan can be sent outside of the organization and the appendices can include the more confidential and detail-oriented documents -- documents which also tend to change a lot. The format of the plan should fit the culture and preferences of the organization.
Consider the following sections:
1) Executive Summary -- This is written to the scope and level of content that an “outsider” can read the summary and grasp the mission of the organization, its overall major issues and goals, and key strategies to reach the goals

2) Authorization -- This page includes all of the necessary signatures from the board of directors (if applicable) and other top management designating that they approve the contents of, and support implementation of, the plan

3) Organizational Description -- This section describes, for example, the beginnings and history of the organization, its major products and services, highlights and accomplishments during the history of organization, etc.

4) Mission, Vision and Values Statements -- These statements describe the strategic "philosophy" of the organization

5) Goals and Strategies -- Lists all of the major strategic goals and associated strategies identified during the strategic planning process.


A) Action Planning -- Specifies objectives, responsibilities and timelines for completion of objectives

B) Description of Strategic Planning Process Used -- Describes the process used to develop the plan, who was involved, the number of meetings, any major lessons learned to improve planning the next time around, etc.

C) Strategic Analysis Data -- Includes information generated during the external analysis (for example, environmental scan) and internal analysis (for example, SWOT analysis), and includes listing of strategic issues identified during the these analyses

D) Goals for Board and Chief Executive Officer -- Goals of the board and CEO should be directly aligned with goals identified during strategic planning. This appendix will list goals for the board and can include recommendations for redesigning board committees to be associated with strategic goals. The appendix also lists goals for the CEO goals -- these can be used (along with the CEO job description) to form the basis for performance evaluations of the CEO.

E) Budget Planning -- Depicts the resources and funding needed to obtain and use the resources needed to achieve the strategic goals. Budgets are often depicted for each year of the term of the strategic plan

F) Operating Plan -- Describes the major goals and activities to be accomplished over the coming fiscal year.

G) Financial Reports -- Includes last year's budget (with estimated expenses and the actual amounts spent), this year's current budget (again with estimated amounts and actual amounts spent), a balance sheet (or in the case of nonprofits, a statement of financial position), income statement (or in the case of nonprofit, a statement of financial activities), etc.

H) Monitoring and Evaluation of Plan -- Include criteria for monitoring and evaluation, and the responsibilities and frequencies of monitoring the implementation of the plan

I) Communication of Plan -- Describe the actions that will be taken to communicate the plan and/or portions of it, and to whom

Communicating the Strategic Plan

Note that certain groups of stakeholders might get complete copies of the plan, including appendices, while other groups (usually outside of the organization) might receive only the body of the plan without its appendices.
1. Every board member and member of management should get a copy of the plan.
2. Consider distributing all (or highlights from) the plan to everyone in the organization. It's amazing how even the newest staff member gains quick context, appreciation, and meaning from review of the strategic plan.
3. Post your mission and vision and values statements on the walls of your main offices. Consider giving each employee a card with the statements (or highlights from them) on the card.
4. Publish portions of your plan in your regular newsletter, and advertising and marketing materials (brochures, ads, etc.).
5. Train board members and employees on portions of the plan during orientations.
6. Include portions of the plan in policies and procedures, including the employee manual.
7. Consider copies of the plan for major stakeholders, for example, funders/investors, trade associations, potential collaborators, vendors/suppliers, etc.
What are the respective roles of board and staff in the strategic planning process?

Strategic planning is a partnership between board and staff. Both groups participate equally in the planning process and provide important insights and information. In addition to helping develop the plan, the board of directors provides final approval for the plan and holds itself and staff accountable for the expected results.

Doug Seubert
Non-Profit Development Specialist
PO Box 56
Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449
(715) 383-0897

Creating A Vision
When you begin the process of strategic planning, visioning comes first. When visioning the change, ask yourself, "What is our preferred future?" and be sure to:
  • Draw on the beliefs, mission, and environment of the organization.
  • Describe what you want to see in the future.
  • Be specific to each organization.
  • Be positive and inspiring.
  • Do not assume that the system will have the same framework as it does today.
  • Be open to dramatic modifications to current organization, methodology, teaching techniques, facilities, etc.


Key Components for Your Vision

Incorporate Your Beliefs

Your vision must be encompassed by your beliefs.

  • Your beliefs must meet your organizational goals as well as community goals.
  • Your beliefs are a statement of your values.
  • Your beliefs are a public/visible declaration of your expected outcomes.
  • Your beliefs must be precise and practical.
  • Your beliefs will guide the actions of all involved.
  • Your beliefs reflect the knowledge, philosophy, and actions of all.
  • Your beliefs are a key component of strategic planning.


Create a Mission Statement

Once you have clarified your beliefs, build on them to define your mission statement which is a statement of purpose and function.

  • Your mission statement draws on your belief statements.
  • Your mission statement must be future oriented and portray your organization as it will be, as if it already exists.
  • Your mission statement must focus on one common purpose.
  • Your mission statement must be specific to the organization, not generic.
  • Your mission statement must be a short statement, not more than one or two sentences.

Here is an example mission statement: "By providing quality education, we empower individuals to become caring, competent, responsible citizens who value education as a lifelong process."


Benefits of Visioning

The process and outcomes of visioning may seem vague and superfluous. The long-term benefits are substantial, however. Visioning:

  • Breaks you out of boundary thinking.
  • Provides continuity and avoids the stutter effect of planning fits and starts.
  • Identifies direction and purpose.
  • Alerts stakeholders to needed change.
  • Promotes interest and commitment.
  • Promotes laser-like focus.
  • Encourages openness to unique and creative solutions.
  • Encourages and builds confidence.
  • Builds loyalty through involvement (ownership).
  • Results in efficiency and productivity.


Vision Killers

As you engage in the visioning process, be alert to the following vision killers:

  • Tradition
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Stereotypes of people, conditions, roles and governing councils
  • Complacency of some stakeholders
  • Fatigued leaders
  • Short-term thinking
  • "Naysayers"


Benefits of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning serves a variety of purposes in organization, including to:
1. Clearly define the purpose of the organization and to establish realistic goals and objectives consistent with that mission in a defined time frame within the organization’s capacity for implementation.
2. Communicate those goals and objectives to the organization’s constituents.
3. Develop a sense of ownership of the plan.
4. Ensure the most effective use is made of the organization’s resources by focusing the resources on the key priorities.
5. Provide a base from which progress can be measured and establish a mechanism for informed change when needed.
6. Bring together of everyone’s best and most reasoned efforts have important value in building a consensus about where an organization is going.
7. Provides clearer focus of organization, producing more efficiency and effectiveness
8. Bridges staff and board of directors
9. Builds strong teams in the board and the staff
10. Provides the glue that keeps the board together
11.Produces great satisfaction among planners around a common vision
12. Increases productivity from increased efficiency and effectiveness
13. Solves major problems
Need help developing a strategic plan?  Advantage Consulting Services provides trainings and workshops, as well as facilitation for strategic planning retreats.