A generic strategic-planning process includes three key phases of assessing, visioning, and strategizing in order to further the mission and vision of an organization (Figure 6.1).


The first phase in a strategic-planning process is for an organization to assess its internal and external environments, and learn about its current situations. Sometimes leaders of a nonprofit organization may have preconceived ideas in terms of what they think is the real situation of their organization. This is a perceived situation that may be different from the real situation revealed by situational assessments. A thorough situational assessment is fundamental to an effective strategic-planning process. The situational assessment can include information from needs assessment, asset mapping, SWOT analysis, and financial analysis. It is almost impossible for a nonprofit organization to determine where it wants to be without an unequivocal understanding of where it is at the time it is going through the strategic-planning process.


Visioning consists of anticipating what the future should look like for the organization from a programmatic viewpoint. Visioning makes it possible to clarify organizational mandates, vision, mission, and values. The visioning of an organization is rooted in its situational assessment.

Strategic-planning process.

FIGURE 6.1 Strategic-planning process.


Strategizing involves the development and adoption of strategic goals, objectives, strategies, and action plans that will help an organization further its purpose. The essence of strategic planning is strategizing, allocating resources, and setting benchmarks or targets in relations to specific outcomes that an organization wishes to obtain, and the impact that it plans to make.


The acronym SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. SWOT analysis is an assessment approach used to scan the internal and external environment of an organization or institution. As Figure 6.2 illustrates, strengths and weaknesses are internal to an organization. Therefore, an organization can influence or modify its strengths and weaknesses. Opportunities and threats are external. They are beyond the direct control of an organization. However, awareness can help an organization take proactive actions through advocacy, collaboration, or strategizing. SWOT analysis can help:

- Identify the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to the achievement of organizational or institutional vision, mission, goals and objectives.

- Provide information about matching an organization or institution's resources and capabilities to the competitive environment in which it operates.

- Guide in strategy formulation and selection.

Conducting a SWOT Analysis

Conducting a SWOT analysis is a collaborative process that should include as many internal and external stakeholders as possible. The process of conducting a SWOT analysis involves:

- Scheduling a SWOT analysis meeting

- Setting specific outcomes for the meeting (e.g., list of areas of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)

Strategic-planning process.

FIGURE 6.2 SWOT analysis flow chart.








(Overcome weaknesses to pursue opportunities)

(Plan to prevent the weaknesses that increase vulnerability to external threats)




(Pursue opportunities that match strengths)

(Use strengths to reduce vulnerability to external threats)

- Inviting stakeholders (internal/external)

- Preparing materials (SWOT worksheets)

- Allowing enough time for work in groups and discussions

- Establishing group norms

- Conducting and managing meetings/ensuring outcomes

- Discussing follow-up process and timeline

After conducting a SWOT analysis, a nonprofit organization should identify and develop strategies to use strengths in order to pursue matching opportunities in place while overcoming weaknesses that may hinder the ability of the organization to pursue existing opportunities. Similarly, there should be plans or strategies to use strengths to reduce vulnerability to external threats, and address the weaknesses that increase vulnerability to potential threats (Box 6.2).

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