Your Two-Day Nonprofit Strategic Planning Agenda

Nonprofit strategic planning is a process, and many organizations start it with a one to two-day annual retreat, where they kick off their efforts. But how do you prepare to make your strategic planning retreat successful? And, what do you do during your time together?

We’re going to break down preparing for and conducting your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat.

Who should attend your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat?

One of the most common questions we get is, “Who should be part of nonprofit strategic planning?” We recommend developing a strategic planning team made up of your nonprofit’s leadership, staff and board members. These individuals should be involved in every part of your nonprofit’s strategic planning process. However, there are times when your organization should also seek input from a larger pool of stakeholders. This can include staff, clients, funders, donors, community members and others who are not already part of your nonprofit’s strategic planning team.

Develop a strategic planning team made up of your nonprofit's leadership, staff and board members. There are times when your organization should also seek input from a larger pool of stakeholders. Click To Tweet

The strategic planning retreat should be attended by your strategic planning team, but can also include your entire board and key members of your nonprofit’s staff who can lend firsthand insights into the valuable discussions that will take place there.

Many nonprofits also choose to bring in an outside facilitator, who can set the agenda and guide discussions.

Preparing for your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat

Your nonprofit’s successful strategic planning retreat should be in the making before it even starts. Prior to bringing everyone together, we recommend conducting research to understand your nonprofit’s current positioning. 

This research typically consists of three assessments:

  • An organization assessment, where you identify your nonprofit’s current business plan, who you serve, where you serve them, your programs and how they are funded. 
  • An ecosystem assessment, where you review other nonprofits in your area to determine how your organization is similar or different as well as trends within your space.
  • A stakeholder assessment, where you aim to understand what those who matter most to your organization value about your nonprofit.

Share the findings from these assessments with anyone attending your strategic planning retreat to ensure everyone is operating off of the same set of information when making strategic decisions. 

What should you do during your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat?

We recommend hosting a strategic planning retreat over two days. 

Retreat Day One

On the first day of your nonprofit’s retreat, review the research gathered prior to the retreat. Allow people to ask questions about the findings and for staff to fill in details based on their day-to-day experiences at the organizations.

After digesting the research together, conduct an analysis of your nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). We love to put large sticky notes on the wall to document input from the group in a way that everyone can see and refer back to for the rest of the retreat. 

Revisit your nonprofit’s mission, vision and values and determine if any updates need to be made. Some organizations also plan to use retreat time to redefine these important elements.

Retreat Day Two

On day two of your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat, take a look back at your organization’s last strategic plan and determine what worked and what didn’t. Decide if there are elements from that plan that need to be carried forward to your new plan.

Then, host a brainstorm about the vision the group has for your nonprofit three years from today. Together, revisit your original organization assessment and re-create your future nonprofit business plan to depict what your organization will look like if you achieve your goals.

With your future picture in mind, review your nonprofit’s SWOT analysis from day one and determine if there are urgent items that are also mission-critical that might need to make it into your next strategic plan. 

Finally, think about if there are any major, outstanding questions your organization is facing over the next three years. For example, do you anticipate government funding streams to change? Is a key member of your team planning to retire? Do you think you might need to explore a nonprofit rebrand?

End the day by brainstorming goals that are potentially strategic plan worthy.

Concluding your strategic planning retreat

At the conclusion of your nonprofit’s strategic planning retreat, you can all celebrate that this important part of the process, the strategic plan kickoff, is done. Any strategic planning retreat can be mentally exhausting because the work you’re doing is so important to your nonprofit’s mission. 

When the retreat is over, it will be up to the strategic planning team to narrow your nonprofit’s goals down, selecting the three to five that will guide your organization forward. The team will also set benchmarks for measuring these goals. 

If you’re a member of the strategic planning team, it’s important to remember to keep those who attended the retreat updated and informed of your progress on both your nonprofit’s strategic plan, and the goals defined in it, every step of the way. We recommend bringing the group back together to present the final plan, so they can see how their inputs shaped your important work.

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