Link to this page

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 12.13.2023

Elements of a Nonprofit Strategic Plan

A nonprofit strategic plan is an important tool to use to grow your nonprofit – a map that helps you make decisions for your organization. 

It answers these 3 key questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where are we going?
  • How will we get there?

Putting it together is not an exact science. Your nonprofit will create one tailored to your work. Nevertheless, an effective strategic plan contains certain core elements.

4 Nonprofit Strategic Plan Elements

Element #1: Vision, Mission, and Values

4 elements of a strategic plan and what you need to include as you write each one with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

Element #1 answers the question, "Why do you exist?" Initially, vision, mission, and values can require significant work to clarify in your nonprofit strategic plan. Time invested in developing this identity content is well-spent, however, because these elements are the foundation upon which the rest of your planning and execution rests. This first element of a nonprofit strategic plan has 3 parts.

1. Vision statement: What will you do?
Your vision statement explains what drives your organization – the problem that caused the organization’s founders to say “I’ve got to do something about this” in the first place. Vision states what your nonprofit hopes to achieve long-term – in the future – to effect change and provide relief for the problem. The best vision statements are short (less than 10 words) and use inspirational language. (Here's how to get started writing a vision statement.)

2. Mission statement: What do you do?
Your mission statement describes concisely what your nonprofit does to achieve its mission. It answers the question, “What do you get up each day to do?” with a concrete action. The best mission statements are 10 words or less and include action verbs.

3. Values statement: What guides you as you do it?
Your values statement (also called “core values,” “foundational principles,” or “core principles”) is a list of beliefs that drives your organization's culture and priorities. It clarifies what your nonprofit stands for and believes in.

Element #2: Analysis

Element #2 answers the question, "Where are you now and where are you going?"

Here is where you objectively look at your current activities (programs and departments) to determine their effectiveness in achieving your mission. List them. Use your data to assess them.

Then look at your nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). How will these impact what you do as you move forward? Should you change them, eliminate them, add new activities? During analysis, you’ll also articulate what your nonprofit is best at – sometimes called your "Competitive Advantage" or your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). (Read more about identifying and writing your competitive advantage or your Unique Selling Proposition here.)

Element #3: Strategy

Element #3 answers the question, "How will you get there? "
Create a strategy that lists programs, policies, philosophy, and departments – the steps you undertake to fulfill your mission during a 1 to 5 year time period and how you will undertake them. At every step of this part of the process, ask “Does this fulfill our mission? Are we using our USP to get there?” In planning, consider carefully your SWOT analysis so that your strategy is targeted and realistic.

Your strategy list can be broken down further with two important elements.

1. Objectives: a list of targets you want to reach as you implement your strategy. Effective objective statements explain what, when, who, and how. They are specific and measurable.

2. Action steps: a list of tasks you will undertake to reach your goals.

Element #4: Evaluation

Element #4 answers the question, "Did you do what you planned?"
Your plan needs to include performance measures – a tangible means to record data to show your strategy’s successes and opportunities for changes. You’ll use this data during your next strategic planning session. 

You can record your strategic plan elements visually using diagrams. The good folks over at Creately have some helpful templates you can use.

More on Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

Create a Strategic Plan with this Step-By-Step Guide ...

Getting Started with Freelance Writing for Nonprofits ...

Nonprofits Need You to Write These 5 Types of Content ...

How to Write a Vision Statement for Your Biz or Blog ...

Strategic planning for nonprofits: what's it all about?

How to create a business plan for nonprofit organizations ...

A Simple Guide to Writing a Mission Statement ...

Pre-writing steps to writing a business plan ...

5 Important Tips for Writing Objectives: Be S.M.A.R.T. ...

Writing business plan elements: what should you include?

Business plan writing tips to make the process easy and quick ...

Your elevator speech: explain your nonprofit in 30 seconds ...

USP: your nonprofit's Unique Selling Proposition ...

How to write a job description for your nonprofit ...

How to create writing guidelines for you, your staff, and contributors ...

More about strategic planning on our Pinterest board ...

Return from Nonprofit Strategic Plan to Nonprofit Copywriter home

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Powered by SBI! Learn more here.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Search This Site

Share This Page


Named to 2022 Writer's Digest list

Get Free Writing Tips

Stop Wasting Time!

Grab your exclusive FREE guide, "5 Simple Writing Tips You Can Put to Use in 10 Minutes or Less"

XML RSSSubscribe To This Site
  • follow us in feedly
  • Add to My Yahoo!