Introduction

Strategic planning helps organizations achieve two critical outcomes: clear decisions about purpose and strategy and commitment to those decisions. It is a process designed to support leaders in being intentional rather than reactive. Simply stated it is a management tool, and as with any management tool, it is used for one purpose only–to help an organization do a better job.

We define strategic planning as a systematic process through which an organization agrees on and builds key stakeholder commitment to priorities that are essential to its mission and responsive to the organizational environment. Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources to achieve these priorities. Several key concepts in this definition are expanded on below.

  1. The process is strategic because it involves choosing how best to respond to the circumstances of a dynamic and sometimes hostile environment. Nonprofit organizations have many choices in the face of changing client or customer needs, funding availability, competition, and other factors. Being strategic requires recognizing these choices and committing to one set of responses instead of another. The most difficult choices often involve what not to do.
  2. Strategic planning is systematic in that it calls for following a structured, driven process. The process raises a sequence of questions that helps planners examine history and performance, test assumptions, gather and incorporate new information, anticipate ...

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