As we enter into the summer months, many nonprofit leaders take advantage of this time to relax a bit—no events to coordinate, no annual appeal letter to get out the door, no major activity on the major gifts committee, no program changes, no major grant deadlines due.

So let’s put on our flip flops and relax by the pool.


Let’s use this time to get ready for the year ahead. Because you’re not as distracted by day to day activities in fundraising and program areas, this is a great time to focus your energy on evaluation how last fiscal year went, and how you can make next year even better. Let’s pull out that’s strategic plan and see if we’re still on track.

Why Strategic Planning?

Whether you and your nonprofit are small and struggling, in the middle of a growth spurt, or large and well established, you can benefit by looking at the future together as board and staff.

In strategic planning, you have a unique opportunity to collaboratively envision your organization’s future and determine how to get there. You can take advantage of strategic planning as a tool for changing the mode of functioning from “reactive to proactive.” And, such plans help get everyone moving forward toward a common destination or vision and have a positive impact on the sustainability of your organization. And, not exactly coincidentally, these plans make excellent public relations pieces for funders and quite often you’ll notice them as a required item or reference in grant proposals for major projects.

Changing From Reactive to Proactive

Everyone from fictional characters such as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland to well-known and even some not so well-known thinkers of our time tell us the importance of knowing where you are going. Our favorite sage advice comes from the succinct lines of Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth and Being Free. He poses the thought-provoking question, “if you don’t know exactly where you are going, how will you know when you get there.”

When you get to a fork in the road, take it. – Yogi Bera

What you don’t want your organization to be faced with is that proverbial fork in the road, and trying to take it—going all directions at the same time. Or, as they say, fixing the plane while you’re flying.

So, does your nonprofit organization need a roadmap, or a GPS (global positioning system) for navigating its future? We can say with a substantial degree of certainty that the roadmap or GPS you’ve created through your strategic plan will help you discover a major benefit of strategic planning. But even more than providing direction and guidance, a strategic plan can take you away from the land of quick fixes and reactive management and operations to a better place characterized by proactive management in day-to-day activities.

We’ve noticed that many nonprofits have a tendency to plan and run at the same time and, generally speaking, the results are not too pretty. Quick fixes just seem to add to the pressure of accomplishing the greater good. Scrambling for a solution, wiping sweat off your brow, exhaling while you work—does that sound familiar? We hope not.

Is your organization reactive? The reactive approach or quick fixes can be costly and you may have a tendency to overlook important details.

Or would you say that your operational style is more proactive? Now is the time to raise your hand to say you’ll join the ranks of proactive organizations. Once you take this important step, you will be joining the growing number of nonprofits who are taking the time and making the investment in strategic planning. Think about it. Doesn’t it just make sense to spend a little time and money upfront in planning than trying to fix problems which seem to pop up over and over again?

So let’s get cracking on that plan!

This post was co-written by Lynne Dean, CFRE.