Strategic Plan Outlines for Nonprofits

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  Moving Beyond Sustainability SM                                                      

                      Yancey Arts Consulting Strategic Plan Outline:
                                     Basic Version
                                           © Yancey Consulting, LLC 2010

YAC Disclosure: This document was created for reference purposes only. It outlines key areas often
addressed during the strategic planning process. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to strategic
plans. There are plenty of books for that. Also, if you’ve had no or limited experience in the strategic
planning process, after going over the outline and giving us a call to answer any preliminary questions, you
can then decide if you need a consultant to guide you through the process. Developed from years of
facilitating, participating in, and assessing strategic plans for nonprofits, this document provides key
considerations that should be addressed for your planning outcomes to have a strategic foundation.

This is the Basic Version of YAC’s Strategic Planning outlines. There are three: Basic, Standard, and
Optimum. Basic includes a condensed version of elements to consider in the development of a strategic plan,
and instructions as to what each section header means. Enhancing what is provided in the Basic Version,
additional clarifying points and definitions are included in YAC's Standard Version. And finally, building
upon the Standard Version, full disclosure of each section, as well as sample language for key sections can be
found in the Optimum Version. The Optimum Version is the most comprehensive of all three strategic plan

There are a myriad of reasons why organizations and even individuals decide to develop a strategic plan. For
whatever reason currently driving your planning process, a strategically managed organization is clear about
what it is, its current positioning in the field, who it serves, where it wants to wants to be in the future, and
how it plans to get there. It’s a lot of work, which can be challenging at times, but well worth it. Just
remember, there isn’t a one-size-fit-all process for strategic planning. The amount of time to complete your
plan can vary from a few weeks to several months—and in some cases, over a year—depending on the size of
your organization, the extent of areas you’re covering, and availability of all stakeholders participating in the
process. Do not get frustrated with the process, for you do not want to compromise the quality of your
analysis and planning in an effort to complete a document. Treat each area with deliberate consideration and
thought. At the end of this process you would have succeeded in the following:

       Documented and discussed the current internal and external environmental factors impacting the
        way your organization carries out its business;
       Identified issues or challenges facing the organization;
       Articulated a vision for the future, reviewed your mission;
       Clarified immediate and long-term goals; and
       Developed strategies to meet stated objectives and mandates.

YAC would be delighted to answer any questions that you may have and welcome all feedback on this
document. Let us know if it met your expectations in terms of thoroughness, clarity, and completeness.
Email us at Someone will respond to your feedback and inquiries promptly.
 Congratulations on embarking upon this wonderful strategic journey. It is a very rewarding process; and I
 wish you much success.

 My absolute best,

 Lisa Yancey
 Lisa Yancey
 Yancey Arts Consulting,
 A subsidiary of Yancey Consulting, LLC

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                           Page 2
 Strategic Planning Outline

 I.      Introduction
 II.     Executive Summary
 III.    Strategic Planning Process
 IV.     Strategic Plan Update
 V.      Vision, Mission, & Values
 VI.     Mandates
 VII.    Assessing the Organization’s Resources
 VIII.   Assess Internal and External Environments to Conduct Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities,
         Challenges (SWOC) Analyses
 IX.     Determining Your Strategy Development Approach
 X.      Identifying Strategic Issues Facing Organization
 XI.     Formulating Your Strategic Goals, Objectives, and Strategies
 XII.    Review and Adoption of Strategies and/or Strategic Plan
 XIII.   Resource Allocation & Implementation Timeline
 XIV.    Review and Adopt Strategies and/or Strategic Plan
 XV.     Resource Allocation and Implementation Timeline
 XVI.    Conclusion

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                          Page 3
 The Introduction (1-2 pages)

 This is the first opportunity to set stage for your reader as to why you embarked upon a strategic planning

 process and what you aim to achieve.

 The introduction is often a letter drafted by the organization’s Board Chairperson. Although it is the first

 piece of information about the strategic plan, and its process, it should be the last document drafted, for it

 must be informed by the process and the conclusions developed during the planning sessions.

 Items mentioned may include:

        The historical significance of the organization in the community;

        Motivation for undergoing a strategic planning process at this time

         [Note: These are only a few options. They may or may not apply to the purpose of your organization’s

         strategic planning process. They should not be discussed in depth in this introduction, but as a

         precursor of what will be further explored in the strategic plan. Only goals actually explored in the

         plan should be mentioned in the introduction. Other options to consider are included in the YAC's

         Optimum Version]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                               Page 4
 Executive Summary (2-3 pages)

 The Executive Summary is a condensed reporting of the plan’s key strategies, goals, objectives, timeline, and

 methodology. It is a summary outlining the key points of the entire plan. It is best written after the entire

 plan is complete.

 You can note in bullet or table format, the goals and objectives outlined in the plan. You can also note any

 locally, regionally, or nationally recognized standards or tools of measurement used in the planning process.

 It should include a few sentences explaining critical objectives identified in the plan, its planned impact,

 measurement tools, and timeline.

 [Note: Sample language of an Executive Summary is included in the YAC Optimum Version

 available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                    Page 5
 Strategic Planning Process (2-3 paragraphs)

 Organizations should provide the details of their strategic planning process. Document the participants and

 their affiliations or stakeholder interests. Document the duration of the process. Where did it take place?

 What was the primary focus of the organizational plan? This section provides a general summary of the

 actual strategic planning process. Identify any donors that may have funded the planning process and their

 funding program.

 In order to report this information, the organization must first decide on its process. Planning participants

 should agree as to:

        Purpose of the planning effort,

        Planning components,

        Timetable for gathering and reporting information,

        Participant roles and functions

 [Note: Other considerations are included in YAC's Standard Version; comprehensive details and
 Sample Process Language is included in YAC's Optimum Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                              Page 6
 Strategic Plan Update (1-3 pages)

 If your strategic plan is a sequel to a previously developed and implemented plan, you should provide a status

 report on the previously developed plan here.

        Identify the date the previous plan was adopted, and a summary of that plan’s stated goals,

         objectives, key strategies, and timeline.

        Identify strategic planning objectives that were implemented as planned and their outcomes.

        Discuss areas of significant progress.

 [Note: The length of your strategic planning update varies, depending on the amount and details of
 the reporting. Other considerations are included in YAC's Standard Version; comprehensive details
 and Sample Language is included in YAC's Optimum Version; both are available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                  Page 7
 Vision, Mission, and Values (1-2 pages)

 Provide the organization’s adopted vision, mission, and values. Often the words vision and mission are

 inappropriately used interchangeably. One is a conceived or perceived state of future existence—and the

 other explains the actions to get you there.

 Vision is a concept. It is an altruistic view of how the organization sees the impact its services could have on

 the world in some future time.

 Mission should clearly explain what the organization does and whom these activities are intending to serve.

 It captures both the activities and the targeted audience.

 Values are the ideals that the organization regards worthy to be measured against. They govern how the

 organization operates and guides operational and programmatic decisions.

 [Note: Sample language and detailed descriptions for vision, mission and value statements are
 included in the YAC Optimum Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                 Page 8
 Mandates (A few paragraphs-2 pages)

 Identify any covenants or other legal obligations that your organization is required to abide by, for any set

 period of time, in its operations as a not-for-profit. These obligations may be mandatory under contract or as

 a condition of the organization receiving a grant, gifts, or in-kind equipment or professional services.

 Mandates do not have to necessarily be contractually defined. They could also be community or political

 expectations, pressures or constraints. There are both formal and informal mandates that require legitimate

 consideration by the organization. Clarifying the organization’s mandates will inform the strategic options

 available when considering the action plans towards satisfying identified goals.

 [Note: Sample Mandate language is included in the YAC Optimum Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                               Page 9
 Assessing the Organization’s Resources (1-2 pages with charts)

 Evaluate all staff, financial, volunteer, in-kind, partnership resources available to the organization.     Are you
 understaffed? Where is your organization in terms of liquidity and cash flow? Do you have outstanding
 receivables? Have you maximized your third party resources?

 Include an organizational chart and brief description of responsibilities in this section. If key positions are yet

 to be filled, list them as additional positions to staff, in order of priority, if additional resources become


 If a funding plan exists, note the fundraising goals and strategies for the years planned. Include as an
 attachment, a list of funders, the amount of their awards and any key notes that could affect the organization
 during the strategic planning term.

 [Note: Additional details are included in YAC's Standard Version; sample notes and comprehensive
 explanations are included in the YAC Optimum Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                      Page 10
 Assess Internal & External Environments to Conduct SWOC Analyses (3-6 pages)

 The organization must evaluate conditions, factors, and environments both within and outside of its control

 to objectively evaluate the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges or Threats

 (SWOC or SWOT). An assessment of the organization’s Strengths and Weaknesses is a review of the

 organization’s current internal state. Contrarily, an assessment of the organization’s Opportunities and

 Challenges requires a future or conditional review that often involve external factors.

 It is important to conduct this assessment with an open mind. Strengths/Weaknesses and

 Opportunities/Challenges can be two heads to the same coin, depending on how one looks at it. It’s the

 glass half full or half empty paradigm. It is all in how you look at it. In an effect SWOC analysis, the

 planning participants should aim to see both perspectives, so as not to ignore easily obtained opportunities or

 imminent challenges just around the corner.

 In plain language, assessing the organization’s opportunities and challenges is research and data collection

 driven. It considers the organization’s mission, programs, services, resources, uniqueness, and experiences in

 acknowledging un-explored opportunities and imminent or future challenges.

 [Note: Comprehensive definitions and details of SWOC[T] are included in the YAC Optimum

 Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                  Page 11
 Determining Your Strategy Development Approach

 A strategy is defined as “a carefully devised plan of action to achieve a goal, or the art of developing or

 carrying out such a plan.” In evolutionary theory, it is “a behavior, structure, or adaptation that improves

 viability.” (Encarta World English Dictionary) It is generally organized by first identifying a goals and

 subsequently outlining action items or objectives to achieve stated goals.

 I believe that whatever approach you choose, you should always vet the proposed strategies against, the

 organization’s mission, vision, human, time, and financial resources, values, priorities, and integration of

 innovation and technology.

 [Note: Detailed information is included in YAC's Standard Version; Sample Strategic Development

 Approach       Options       are    included      in    YAC's       Optimum     Version     available     at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                             Page 12
 Identifying Strategic Issues Facing the Organization (a few paragraphs – 1 page per issue)

 Now that the organization’s SWOCs have been identified, the organization is in a stronger position to

 conduct an internal and external assessment of strategic issues facing the organizations. A strategic issue is a

 fundamental policy question or critical challenge affecting an organization’s mandates, mission and values,

 product or service level and mix, clients, users or payers, cost financing, structure, processes, or


 The reason why developing a strategic plan requires the input of various stakeholders is that finding and then

 properly framing these issues requires insight, dialogue, knowledge of internal operations and mandates,

 understanding and factoring of stakeholder interests, consideration of environmental changes, and an open

 mind to identify new opportunities.

 [Note: Detailed information is included in YAC's Standard Version; main elements to include when

 drafting Strategic Issues are included in YAC's Optimum Version; both are available at]

  See Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational
 Achievement, 3rd Edition. p.153. Bryson, John M. Jossey-Bass, © 2004.

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                              Page 13
 Formulating Your Strategic Goals & Objectives (1-2 pages per goal)

 Now that you’ve identified your organization’s strategic issues and prioritized which issues will be the focus

 of this strategic planning process, it is now time to identify your organizational goals and objectives for each

 issue. This is when your strategies to address the issues are formulated.

 In the strategic planning process, goals and objectives are often inappropriately used interchangeably. It is

 important to clarify the difference between a goal and an objective. A goal articulates what the organization

 wants to achieve towards that strategic issue. It is not an action statement. It is an aim, desire or end-

 ambition. Objectives are the activities that will help the organization meet its goals. The objectives outline

 the tasks that will help the organization meet its goals and hopefully resolve its strategic issues.

 [Note: Detailed information is included in YAC's Standard Version; Sample Goal, Objective, and
 Strategies   Language     is    included in YAC's        Optimum      Version   available    at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                   Page 14
 Review and Adoption Strategies and/or Strategic Plan

 Once strategies are formulated against the issues, the team may require an official adoption of the strategy to

 affirm them and then proceed to implementation. The same may be true once the strategic plan is prepared.

 This may require a vote from the team, an advisory board, the Board of Directors or Trustees, or whoever

 was elected as the Adoption Committee. This body will affirm the strategies and ensure that the proposed

 tasks are in line with stated goals, concerns, and interests of all key internal and external stakeholders.

 [Note: Detailed information is included in YAC's Standard and Optimum Versions available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                                     Page 15
 Resource Allocation and Implementation Timeline (should include charts)

 A strategic plan is not complete without identifying the individuals or departments responsible for

 implementing the formulated strategies. This is your implementation plan. It basically outlines how the

 strategies formulated in the strategic plan will be incorporated into the organization’s operations. It also

 allows for the organization to create an accountability plan and establish review and evaluation periods to

 evaluate the success of both the plan’s implementation and proposed strategies.

 [Note: Detailed information is included in YAC's Standard Version; comprehensive details and

 Action Plan elements are included in the YAC Optimum Version available at]

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                             Page 16

 Strategic planning begins as a process that should eventually transform into a culture of organizational

 policies and practices. As the organization becomes more experienced at strategic planning, it begins to

 respond quicker in identifying strategic issues and monitoring whether its executive decisions advance the

 organization’s mission, vision, and goals.

 Although this outline is drafted in a linear sequence, the planning process may not proceed sequentially.

 Planning participants may want to revisit strategic issues, after determining the impact of implementation of

 proposed strategies. They may want to revisit the mission if strategic issues suggest that the mission needs

 modifying. Other situations may surface such as a new mandate, a failing strategy or a need to reassess the

 issues. The point is, be flexible and patient with your strategy planning process. Stay committed to resolving

 strategic issues and strengthening your organization.        The strategic planning process should eventually

 become a part of your organizational culture. It is a critical means to an end that includes institutional

 sustainability, stakeholder advocacy and support, and concrete public value.

 I wish you the best in strategic thinking and institutional longevity!

Yancey Arts Consulting: Strategic Plan Outline[Basic]                                               Page 17