At the beginning of any strategic planning process I lead, this is the question I pose to the nonprofit’s leadership: “What are the key strategic questions facing your nonprofit?” Nonprofit leaders who want to plan for the future must first articulate what it is they need to decide about that future.

So my first step in strategic planning is to lead the board and staff to create a laundry list of the big picture questions they want to be able to answer by the end of the strategic planning process. These are questions like:

  • What people or groups are we seeking to benefit or influence? It is absolutely essential that your nonprofit get crystal clear about who your target population is in order to better create change for those targets, more effectively encourage funders to invest in what you are doing, put your limited resources to their highest and best use, and, most importantly, to really understand how best to create social change.
  • Which programs or activities should we cut? Often nonprofit leaders are so big-hearted that over the years they take on more and more programs and services, regardless of whether those additional programs make strategic sense or fit with the core competencies of their organization.
  • What social issues are we working to address? Over time, a nonprofit’s leadership might take on additional issues, or the issues they were formed to address might change or grow, or other competing groups might launch to address similar issues.
  • Given what others working on the same issues are doing, where should we be focusing our efforts? And then you may need to determine what impact those efforts have on your nonprofit’s future direction and where can you have the most effective results.

Read the rest of the strategic nonprofit questions by Nell Edington at Social Velocity.