Strategic Planning Practices in High Performing Nonprofits

A 2012 study by the Association for Strategic Planning and the University of Arkansas, Dept of Political Science, sheds light on the strategic planning practices of organizations that define themselves as highly successful.

How strategic planning affects success at high to low performing nonprofits

Survey responses were received from 973 nonprofits from across the US. Respondents were asked to rate themselves as low, medium or highly successful.

Highly successful nonprofits were described as those that had a high impact on their community, were sustainable, successful in their fundraising and were data driven.

What are some of the practices revealed in these high performing nonprofits?

  • Strategic planning was a consistent and periodic practice
  • The process of strategic planning was comprehensive, incorporating environmental analysis, a review of industry trends, benchmarking, stakeholder input, program analysis, discussions about mission and vision, brainstorming and defined performance outcomes.
  • High performing organizations were disciplined about monitoring and reporting progress, including reporting at least four times a year, if not monthly.

The bottom line:

“93% of successful organizations report that strategic planning has ‘some to critical impact’ on overall success,  whereas only 48% of low success organizations report such impact.”

This aligns with a finding Peter York of TCC Group shared at last year’s Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference. Based on data from their Core Capacity Assessment Tool, only 13% of nonprofits reported implementing their strategic plan on time. But successful implementation was a top indicator of organizational growth.

You can find the full report from the Association for Strategic Planning here.

Thank you to Denise McNerney of iBossWell for sharing this with me.

2 responses to Strategic Planning Practices in High Performing Nonprofits

  1. Denise McNerney

    Thanks Gayle for spreading the word! Although this may seem intuitive to those of us “in the biz of strategic planning”, there are still many naysayers out there. And unfortunately, some of those negative opinions around strategic planning come from poor experiences, either in the plan development process or in the implementation (or typically – lack there of) process. The great news of this research is: 1) it provides solid evidence that good practices in the planning arena lead to overall organizational success, and 2) the data also outlines specifically what some of those successful practices are, so that stakeholders can determine whether or not they have a solid/successful approach.

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