How to Involve Diverse Stakeholders in Strategic Planning

At Prosper, we believe it’s critically important to involve not only your leadership staff and board, but a wide range of your organization’s internal and external stakeholders in strategic planning. Our most successful clients include everyone from their program staff to volunteers, donors, community members and those who use their programs and services in their planning process. However, engaging so many people in such important work can also feel overwhelming, especially when each may have different perspectives and priorities. This post will help you think through who to involve, how, and when, so you can set your strategic plan up for success. 

Identify a Strategic Planning Committee

Every organization should have a strategic planning committee. This is the group that will steward the strategic planning process from start to finish. It is most often made up of your nonprofit’s leadership team and can sometimes include board members. We recommend this group be no larger than seven people. These are the individuals who will do the heavy lifting in the development of the plan, and then take accountability for its implementation. 

Determine Stakeholder Groups that Need to Be Involved

For most nonprofits, identifying the core strategic planning committee is straightforward, it’s the rest that gets more complicated. With your strategic planning committee, think through all of the other stakeholder groups that should be involved in your process in some way, including (but not limited to):

  • Nonprofit staff
  • Board members
  • Specific board committees
  • Clients
  • Funders/partners
  • Donors
  • Community partners or allies
  • Community members
  • Subject matter experts

Once you have a comprehensive list, discuss when and how these individuals and groups should be involved in your process. One helpful tool for making decisions about how to involve various groups is the DARCI model for project management. DARCI stands for Decider/Delegate; Accountable; Responsible; Consulted; Informed. By grouping your stakeholders into these categories, it will align the strategic planning committee around how various individuals need to be involved in the process. See the following example:

Decider Accountable Responsible (Strategic Plan Committee) Consulted  Informed
Responsible for final approval or veto for the project. This right can be retained or delegated to the A. The single person fully accountable for making the project happen. Those responsible for doing work on this project. Those from whom input will be solicited. Those to be kept informed of relevant developments.
Executive Director

VP of Operations

VP of Operations Executive Director

VP of Operations

VP of Development

VP of Programs

VP of Finance

VP of Marketing & Communications

Strategic Plan Taskforce



Board of Directors


Community Partners

Community Members


Engage Stakeholders

With stakeholder groups and roles for the strategic planning process clearly identified, you can now map out your project plan and think through how and when to engage each group, based on what is expected of them. Consider engaging your stakeholders through:

  • A strategy task force. This is a larger group of stakeholders, who likely fall under the Consulted category if you’re using the DARCI model. This group will be involved at key points throughout the process.
  • Listening sessions. In these meetings, members of the strategic planning committee ask stakeholders for specific feedback on certain elements of a strategic plan. For example, you might use a listening session to solicit feedback on your working vision and mission statements.
  • Surveys, focus groups and interviews. These elements can be used at the beginning of the strategic planning process as research tools, or throughout the process to get feedback on specific elements of the plan.

While it’s a lot to think about, determining how you will engage your stakeholder in the strategic planning process from the very beginning will ensure you get the involvement and the perspectives you need to ensure you develop a meaningful, actionable plan.