What Do People Get Wrong About Nonprofit Strategic Planning?

You Said Strategy, Is That What You Really Meant?

If you find strategy a bit hard to grasp, you’re not alone. Here’s an overview of nonprofit strategy.

What Do People Get Wrong About Nonprofit Strategic Planning?What is a Nonprofit Strategic Plan?

Your nonprofit strategy is your customized-designed master plan to win more mission, more supporters, and more money.
Successful nonprofit strategies:

1) Win

They explain how you will overcome the critical roadblock that restricts your nonprofit’s growth.


2) Streamline

You can explain your strategy in a tweet-length phrase that’s easy to grasp and repeat.


3) Linger

Effective strategies generate “earworms” useful for decision-making. People ask, “Which option reflects our strategy to be donor-funded?”

Test Your Understanding of the Nonprofit Strategy

Strategy is one of those words. It’s used frequently and often imprecisely in the sector. Watch for the word, whether you hear it or read it, the odds are greater than 50 percent that the term will be misused.


Here are four quotations from articles about nonprofits using the word strategy. Which of the four quotes uses the word accurately?


1. “In their strategy, nonprofits must acknowledge the hardships that people are experiencing and then make fundraising asks from a place of empathy.”


2. “A nonprofit executive leading in times of uncertainty ramps up their stakeholder engagement strategy, providing empathy and selfless help to all around them, while cutting both their burn rate and all nonessential business activities.”


3. “In short, the transition strategy is the best available. “The market is winding down the coal industry, and these workers are going to need jobs to support their families. We can provide good-paying jobs to these skilled workers while restoring the land to productive use . . .”


 4. “Needless to say, in reimagining your organization you’ll need to determine how much it will cost to do what you want, and you’ll need to develop an intentional revenue strategy.”


If you guessed three and four, you’re correct, congratulations!


Either the word tactic or techniques would be a better word choice in Example One. In Number Two, the sentence would be more precise without the word strategy. Stakeholder engagement is a tactic. The third and fourth correctly reflect an overall game plan to win.


Four Challenges Caused by Using Strategy Incorrectly

Why does misusing the word strategy matter? When you or others misuse it, your nonprofit risks:
  • Looking unprofessional
  • Failing to generate a master plan to win
  • Confusing donors (When supporters get confused, they hold off on making gifts.)
  • Struggling with decisions that you’d quickly resolve if you consulted your strategy


Do You Want to Learn More About Nonprofit Strategy?




Do you want to know even more about strategy? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Karen.  Schedule a time for a free discovery chat here.

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