5 Tips to Keep Your Strategic Plan on Track in 2024

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Any organization that relies on fundraising dollars needs a clear strategic plan for success. However, it’s important to recognize that strategic planning isn’t a one-time process; your nonprofit’s strategic plan should be a living document that evolves as needed to help you continue reaching your goals.

This guide reviews five tips to help adjust your strategic plan to keep it on track throughout the year:

  1. Check in on your resource and staff allocation.
  2. Assess progress reports regularly.
  3. Encourage ongoing stakeholder feedback.
  4. Celebrate successes.
  5. Work with a consultant as needed.

Your strategic plan is a blueprint for your nonprofit’s long-term success. Because most strategic plans have lengthy timelines, you could face plenty of obstacles while carrying out your plan. These tips are intended to help you right the ship and continue meeting your goals in the face of any challenges.

1. Check in on your resource and staff allocation.

When you initially created your strategic plan, you allocated resources and staff members’ time to different projects, campaigns, and initiatives. As you carry out your strategies, you may have started noticing that your plans aren’t completely aligned with the reality of your fundraising situation. And that’s ok! That’s why your strategic plan should be treated as a live document.

Regularly check in with your staff members to assess the state of your resources and software tools. Review the following elements:

  • Your AI solutions. Do you need to update your predictive models based on changes in your core audience, such as demographic shifts or economic changes that impact donors’ giving power?
  • Your other technology solutions. Are your constituent relationship management system (CRM), marketing platforms, and website content management system (CMS) set up well to support your fundraising initiatives? Do you need to switch to a new platform or contact your software provider for support to make the most of your systems?
  • Your staff’s roles and responsibilities. Consider how much each staff member has on their plate. Can you reallocate assignments to alleviate stress? Is your staff the right size to effectively accomplish your goals, or do you need to hire new employees or bring on more volunteers?

Consider whether you need to adjust your budgeting allocation to address resource or staffing gaps. Collect clear data that demonstrates your organization’s needs so you can justify the strategic change to your nonprofit’s leadership and board. For example, survey your staff members to identify common technology gaps and pain points and share results with leaders.

2. Assess progress reports regularly.

If your nonprofit struggles with lengthy reporting processes, you’re not alone. Nonprofit professionals noted manual, time-intensive reporting as one of the top challenges for 2024.

The first step in streamlining your reporting processes is ensuring you have the right CRM software to automate reporting and increase efficiency. Your CRM should allow you to review various reports in one convenient place and create reports based on custom criteria.

Then, ensure you’re reviewing the right reports that paint a complete picture of your fundraising progress. Reports for the following metrics tend to be the most helpful in strategic planning:

  • Donor engagement metrics, such as top donors, LYBUNT and SYBUNT, and donor retention
  • Wealth screening data, including major donor prospects and donor giving capacity
  • Corporate giving metrics, such as total donations from corporate sponsors or matching gift rate
  • Donation tracking, such as total donations from specific campaigns or total annual gift amount
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising data, such as supporter participation rate and total funds raised from peer-to-peer campaigns
  • Marketing engagement, including social media followers, email open rates, and click-through rates for different marketing platforms
  • Volunteer data, including volunteer retention and satisfaction

This data will provide a 360-degree view of all constituents, including individual donors, volunteers, and corporate sponsors. Produce these reports regularly, such as once every two weeks, to measure your progress and note any problem areas. For instance, if you detect a sharp decrease in donor retention, you can allocate more resources to your donor experience program.

3. Encourage ongoing stakeholder feedback.

For your strategic plan to be rolled out successfully, you must collect ongoing feedback from the people most affected by the plan. Their insights are invaluable for shaping the direction of your strategies and determining areas that need improvement. Collect regular feedback from:

  • Staff members who carry out your campaigns, plan events, and report on fundraising progress
  • Beneficiaries who receive support from your nonprofit’s programs and services
  • Volunteers who support your events, campaigns, and daily operations
  • Donors, including major, mid-level, and monthly donors, who all have a unique perspective on your giving process
  • Corporate partners who support your events and ongoing activities in exchange for benefits like greater marketing reach

Send out surveys regularly, such as once a quarter, to gather insights from these individuals. After receiving responses, identify common patterns and adjust your strategy in ways that align with your goals and capacity.

For example, perhaps many donors express the need for a simpler online donation form. Rather than completely switching giving platforms, you can make small changes to your current form, like reducing the number of questions and making the form more mobile-friendly, to align with supporters’ preferences.

Follow up with stakeholders to thank them for their input and outline the changes you plan to make in response to their feedback.

4. Celebrate successes.

Maintaining momentum is one of the most common challenges nonprofits face when rolling out their strategic plans. Since strategic plans may take years to carry out, it’s natural that you might hit a few slumps along the way.

An easy and effective way to re-energize your community is to celebrate smaller milestones. With ongoing recognition and appreciation, you ensure donors, volunteers, staff, and other stakeholders feel motivated to continue pushing your plan forward.

Here are a few examples of small victories to acknowledge:

  • A major fundraising event reaches its goal
  • Your nonprofit hits its monthly recurring revenue target
  • Your organization starts a new program
  • A volunteer reaches certain milestones, such as volunteering for 100 hours
  • A staff member secures an essential major donation
  • A donor hits a significant milestone, such as giving a cumulative $1,000 to your organization through monthly gifts

Mark these occasions with rewards or prizes, such as plaques, gift baskets, or celebration events. Publicly recognize supporters and staff who go above and beyond by spotlighting them on marketing channels like social media and email.

5. Work with a consultant as needed.

Sometimes, you may feel like you’re doing all you can to keep your plan on track, but you keep hitting a wall. If you’ve exhausted all internal options, consider working with an external consultant.

These professionals can provide a third-party assessment of your strategies and offer new ideas to keep your plan moving forward based on their experience and expertise. Depending on your needs, you could benefit from working with experts like:

  • A strategic planning consultant who can help generate data-driven insights to inform campaign strategies or suggest creative fundraising approaches to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • A CRM consultant who can ensure you’re making the most of your CRM technology, recommend CRM options to consider, and manage data migrations if needed.
  • A marketing consultant who can make strategy recommendations based on current nonprofit marketing trends and tried-and-true best practices.

Be transparent with your consultant when sharing your organization’s struggles. Experienced consultants have a deep understanding of common nonprofit strategic planning challenges and have likely dealt with similar situations before. Maintaining honest and open conversations with your consultant will allow you to make the most of your partnership.

Your organization has ambitious goals, and your strategic plan helps you achieve those goals with a clear timeline and roadmap. When you implement the strategies in this guide, you can keep things running smoothly and ensure your strategic plan stays on schedule.