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Strategic planning for nonprofit marketing and fundraising: 6 best practices

How to develop watertight strategies to drive your organization forward

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Copper Staff

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Developing a nonprofit strategic plan is all about creating strategies that help your nonprofit advance its mission. These plans often include concrete guidelines for how to achieve your marketing and fundraising goals.

Despite its importance, though, strategic planning for nonprofit organizations can be daunting. There are multiple moving parts and many things to consider when creating a nonprofit strategic plan. We have you covered with everything you need to know about creating a winning nonprofit marketing plan.

Plus, we’re sharing some concrete best practices and tips for ensuring your nonprofit strategic plan is in the best shape to help you conquer your mission.

Strategic planning for nonprofit organizations

When creating a nonprofit strategic plan, it’s important to consider all the factors that go into making a nonprofit a success. Much like running a business, operating a nonprofit requires creating a cohesive and comprehensive plan outlining exactly how you will achieve or advance its mission.

Before you can do anything, though, you need funding, which starts with developing a nonprofit funding strategy and identifying where you will get those funds.

For example, do you want to source funding from corporate giving programs, individual contributions, celebrities, wealthy philanthropists, grants or perhaps a combination of donors? It all starts with having a plan for how you will solicit those funds.

Your nonprofit marketing strategy will likely include things like email marketing, social media campaigns, TV ads, influencer marketing and more. Most likely, you’ll split your marketing plan into two parts: one for soliciting donations and one for raising awareness.

Additionally, there’s the actual act of taking these funds and applying them to generate the desired results. Once the word is out, and the funding is available, how will you turn that money into actionable results?

A well-developed nonprofit strategic plan includes all of these components. The goal is to build a bridge between vision and results while outlining all the activities, people and benchmarks in between.

6 best practices for developing a nonprofit strategic plan

Here are six best practices to get you started on creating a nonprofit strategic plan.

1. Perform a SWOT analysis

It’s essential to identify your strengths and weaknesses before developing your nonprofit strategic plan. Performing a SWOT analysis is an excellent way to accomplish this. SWOT is an acronym that stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Here's a breakdown of what this looks like from Wordstream:

In short, this process involves asking:

  • What are my nonprofit’s strengths?
  • What are our weaknesses?
  • What opportunities do we have?
  • What are the threats to our success?

Be sure to analyze both internal and external factors related to each of these questions. Once you understand where you stand, it’ll be much easier to come up with a winning nonprofit marketing plan.

2. Identify your current focus and create some defined objectives

While your SWOT analysis will help illuminate a lot about your nonprofit, take the next step and dig deeper to understand what makes your nonprofit unique. You likely already have an overarching mission statement, but what’s your mission for the next 1 – 3 years?

For example, let’s say your nonprofit’s primary mission is to create food banks or community gardens in food deserts across the country until everyone has access to food. This is a lifelong mission and not something your organization can accomplish quickly, however.

Start by figuring out your immediate goals. Maybe you hope to establish one new food bank or community garden every year. In this case, spec out your locations for the next three years and develop a nonprofit marketing strategy and a fundraising strategic plan to make that happen.

Once you’ve identified your focus, it’s important to define some objectives. These should be specific, measurable, realistic and timely objectives, and they should all be assigned to specific teams or people.

For example, your first objective might be to locate five food deserts. Then, a second objective might be to acquire 1,000 new donations via your direct mail campaign. Take the time to define clear objectives so everyone always knows what you’re trying to achieve.

3. Build the right relationships

Your people are the most critical component to the success of your nonprofit’s strategic plan. From your board members and employees to your donors and partnerships, the people you choose to help you achieve your goals will fundamentally impact your success.

The different people and stakeholders in your organization might include:

  • Staff members
  • Board members
  • Partners
  • Consultants
  • Donors
  • Recipients
  • And more

When creating your nonprofit fundraising strategy, be sure to assign specific teams or people to certain parts of the plan. For example, have ideas on who you’ll partner with, who will have certain responsibilities and how often your board needs to meet to enable you to achieve those goals.

4. Break your strategy into parts

You don’t need to have your overall strategic plan, business plan and fundraising and marketing strategies in the same place. Instead, break them up.

Consider creating a longer-term, 3-year strategic plan which addresses your high-level goals and changes over time. Then, have an annual “business” plan that helps you execute objectives and measure outcomes to ensure you achieve your mission. Finally, develop a focused strategy that covers your fundraising and marketing activities.

It’ll be much easier to keep things straight if you allow each part of your nonprofit’s strategy to exist in its own space.

5. Create a well-defined nonprofit fundraising breakdown

We already touched on how you might receive your funds from several different sources. It’s important to look at your budget (or ideal budget) to determine how (and from whom) you’ll raise the money.

Here’s one example from Get Fully Funded:

For example, your breakdown might look something like this:

  • 50% from grants
  • 20% from corporations
  • 20% from individual contributors
  • 10% from your endowment program

No matter how you plan to break down your funds, having a clear formula mapped out to reach your budget will make creating your nonprofit fundraising strategy much easier. For example, if most of your fundraising comes from small-donor individuals, you might decide to do online fundraising, recurring monthly giving fundraising or direct mail fundraising.

Alternatively, if the majority of your funding comes from grants, your fundraising strategy might focus on hiring grant writers and making connections with the right people to win those grants. Determining your funding breakdown and fundraising techniques is necessary for outlining the entire nonprofit strategic plan.

6. Use tools to create tactics, automate, and stay organized

The best nonprofits use effective technology and tools to create their nonprofit marketing plan. From strategic plan templates to productivity suites like Google Workspace for nonprofits, there’s no shortage of tools at your disposal. Look for tools that will enable you to implement defined tactics, like email marketing or podcast advertising, to help your team reach your fundraising goals and overall business objectives.

One of the best tools for strategic planning for nonprofit organizations is a CRM since best-fit CRMs can help you turn your objectives into actionable tactics while enabling you to keep everything organized.

For example, Copper CRM can help you manage all your contacts (donors, recipients, vendors, partners, etc.), streamline communication, automate fundraising, enhance collaboration, generate reports, and more.

Strategic planning for nonprofit organizations made easier

While creating a nonprofit strategic plan will never be easy, you can make the process more manageable by following these best practices — with the ultimate goal of creating a nonprofit marketing plan and fundraising strategy to help your nonprofit advance its mission.

As long as you get clear about your goals, hammer out some objectives, assign those objectives, and measure your results, chances are you’ll be hitting your fundraising goals and nonprofit objectives in no time.

Plus, if you use tools like Copper CRM, you can amplify your efforts by automating your processes, streamlining your communications, and organizing your fundraising efforts from top to bottom. If you’re ready to take your nonprofit strategic plan to the next level, give Copper a try for free for 14 days.

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