Strategic Planning Resources & Tools

Strategic planning articles

Crafting Strategy

In this article, Henry Mintzberg posits that “crafting” strategy — “evoking traditional skill, dedication, perfection through the mastery of details” — rather than “planning” strategy” has become the new paradigm for process and mindset. Read more here >

The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.

This article describes the Monitor Institute’s adaptive strategy approach. They “create a roadmap of the terrain that lies before an organization and develop a set of navigational tools, realizing that there will be many different options for reaching the destination. If necessary, the destination itself may shift based on what we learn along the way.” Published by Stanford Social Innovation Review and written by Dana O’Donovan and Noah Rimland Flower, both from the Monitor Institute. Read more here >

Creating High-Impact Nonprofits

This Stanford Social Innovation Review article by Heather McLeod and Leslie R. Crutchfield argues that “conventional wisdom says that scaling social innovation starts with strengthening internal management capabilities.” This article highlights findings from a study of 12 high-impact nonprofits, which shows that real social change happens when organizations go outside their own walls and find creative ways to enlist the help of others. Read more here >

Stop Making Plans; Start Making Decisions

This article explores how for most companies, strategic planning isn’t about making decisions, but about documenting choices that have already been made, often haphazardly. It shares lessons learned by leading firms that are rethinking the strategy development process. Published by the Harvard Business Review and written by Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steele. Read more here >

Strategy Under Uncertainty

The traditional approach to strategy requires precise predictions and thus often leads executives to underestimate uncertainty — which can be downright dangerous. This article offers a four-level framework can help. Written by Hugh G. Courtney, Jane Kirkland and S. Patrick Viguerie. Read more here >

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?

It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else. Published by the Harvard Business Review and written by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad. Read more here >

Strategic Dialogue” (worksheet)

A basic strategic dialogue worksheet outlining success factors, techniques, and guiding questions to develop a group’s shared meaning about its strategic reality. Developed by the Stratton Consulting Group. Download here >

Strategic Planning Resources (Books)

Strategic Planning for NonProfit Organizations (2nd edition)

This book has case studies, is very accessible, and has a CD with planning sheets. Written by Mike Allison and Jude Kaye (both former senior consultants with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services). Read more here >

The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World

In this book, strategy consultant David La Piana introduces “Real-Time Strategic Planning,” a fluid, organic strategic planning process that engages staff and board in systematic readiness and continuous responsiveness — rather than a tedious 3-5 year strategic planning process. With it, nonprofits will be able to identify, understand, and act on challenges and opportunities as they arise—not in six months when the “plan” is done.  The tool kit and examples that accompany the book are also valuable. Read more here >

Sample strategic plans

The IDEX Theory of Change (2014)

The Theory of Change is a result of a consultative process with IDEX’s grantee partners, philanthropic partners, Board of Directors, staff and other stakeholders. It outlines IDEX’s vision for the change that it seeks in international development and philanthropy.
Theory of Change: Read more here >

CounterPULSE Strategic Plan

In 2011, CounterPULSE was at a critical inflection point, ready to articulate its core organizational strategies. With the support of the Hewlett Foundation, it underwent a consultant search to organize and support a strategy formation process.  It ultimately selected a team from CompassPoint, who developed a plan to answer the following:

  • Who are we now? —an analysis of the current program business model
  • Who do we suspect we want to be? —initial theory of change and accompanying strategies
  • Who can we actually be? —feasibility analysis with external stakeholders
  • Who will we be? —finalizing a theory of change and core strategies
  • How will we be who we’ve decided to be? —the development of metrics to track our progress

Read more about CounterPULSE’s process and see its strategic plan here: download pdf >

American Rivers Strategic Plan

American Rivers has developed a 40-year vision, supported by short-, medium-, and long-term goals. View its Theory of Change and read its strategic plan here: download pdf >

First 5 Marin Strategic Plan Summary & Implementation Framework

The First 5 Marin Children and Families Commission guides the investment of Proposition 10 funds in Marin County. The 2012-2017 First 5 Marin Strategic Plan, developed and adopted in June 2012, is grounded in lessons learned over the course of the previous five years.
Strategic plan summary: download pdf>
Full strategic plan: download pdf >
Includes a sample one-page diagram for an implementation framework: download pdf >

826 National Strategic Plan

This FY 2014-16 strategic plan addresses and defines the case for why 826 is needed— its model, programs, and target audience; the role of 826 National and its goals and activities; how 826 National will measure progress and success towards those goals; its expansion plans; and the marketing and funding efforts required to make it all happen. Check it out here: download pdf >