I get a lot of calls from nonprofit board members and Executive Directors who have set a date for their board’s upcoming strategic planning session and are now scrambling to find a facilitator. While it’s great when nonprofit boards realize it’s time to consider strategic planning, they often have no idea what it’s going to take to create a great strategic plan. Holding a half day or even full day strategic planning session may be a good start, but it can be really unsatisfying for everyone involved unless it’s part of a bigger process that takes a lot of different factors into account.

Based on the experiences I’ve had working with small nonprofits, I’m in the process of creating new ways to work with these nonprofits who need a partner, but may not realize all of the steps ahead. More details about how this works will be added to the site over the next few weeks, but in the meantime here are some thoughts designed for nonprofit board members and directors who may be curious to learn more.

My new process is called . . . .THE NONPROFIT STRATEGY TANGO

I picked this name for 2 reasons:

  1. I have been a dancer my whole life and this reflects who I am as a person and a business partner.
  2. Any strategic planning process has the most chance for success when there are 2 strong partners, both actively engaged.  Even the most experienced and knowledgeable consultant can’t create a great strategic plan without an engaged group of board members and key staff.  After all . . . . IT TAKES 2 TO TANGO!

Many of my clients come to me when they are feeling overwhelmed and anxious because their organization doesn’t have a clear plan for how to conquer its mission using the resources it currently has or aspires to earn.

If you are beginning to think about getting ready for strategic planning, here are 5 questions to ask if you are a nonprofit board member or Executive Director:

  1. Does your organization have difficulty finding reliable and repeated funding sources?
  2. Does your nonprofit feel like it’s floundering because it doesn’t have a focused or thoughtful plan of action for everything from consistent funding to organizational efficiency?
  3. Have you been chasing grants and other opportunities that don’t yield the return you desire?
  4. Do you feel like you’re constantly reacting to current circumstances instead of taking the reigns to achieve your mission?
  5. Are you unsure whether your organization needs a strategic plan or worry that it will be a dry and boring process?

Imagine if your vision was fueled by an easy to implement plan that provides the funding and support you need to make a real impact.  Running a nonprofit is harder than running a business. I know. I’ve done both.  Nonprofit leaders and volunteers have to juggle many different needs all at once, and there is never enough money or time.

With a strategic plan you’ll be able to make a bigger impact on the world and stop feeling drained by the constant hamster wheel of organizational and funding difficulties. With an elegantly simple strategic plan you’ll be able to help more people with less stress and provide more people in crisis with the help they need at the time they need it most.

Strategic planning for nonprofits

Strategic planning will help your organization by:

  • Examining and making explicit what’s really working and what’s not.
  • Focusing time, energy, and funds on those activities that make your organization the most money and allow you to create the most change.
  • Discovering what activities are actually giving your organization the results you really want.
  • Saying “no” to all of the things that don’t work and focusing in on the things that do work to create an impactful shift in your nonprofit.
  • Providing relief and hope for overwhelmed Board members, chairs, and executive directors who know they should be doing something different, but aren’t sure what that is or how to start.

The best strategic planning processes requires you to say YES! a lot and NO! even more (but for different reasons, at different times).

To get started with strategic planning you need to say YES! to:

  • Coming together with your board, staff and volunteers to ask hard questions without easy answers.
  • Being open to change even if it’s scary.
  • Finding a partner who can lead you through the process in a way that get results.


When working with me you’ll learn to say NO! to:

  • Holding tedious meetings that don’t align with your strategic goals.
  • Hosting events that don’t raise enough money.
  • Forming new partnerships without a clear sense of why you’re working together.


Knowing who you are, where you’re going and how you’ll get there is vital. I specialize in helping you move through the changes involved in organizational growth and having confidence that your strategic plan can help you navigate the development of your nonprofit.  My step by step process for creating your strategic plan specific to the needs and resources of your nonprofit includes support to help you execute each stage of the plan.  

It takes two to tango, so this only works when you are ready to be a true partner.  I’ll lead in some cases and you’ll lead in others, but together we’ll get through a defined process that will bring you much needed clarity and focus.

My next blog post will cover the details of how my 3 phase process works.  From organizational assessment to plan creation to execution and monitoring, you’ll understand how strategic planning can work well for nonprofits ready to tango.

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and I’d love to hear from you if you have ideas for how to make it better. Feel free to drop me a line at stephanie@adaptivealt.com.

Is your organization ready for a change?

Stephanie Blackburn Freeth is the creator of The Strategy Tango.


The Strategy Tango is designed to move through seven tried and true planning steps while also accommodating the unique needs of your organization in each moment.


The Strategy Tango process is built upon a foundation of collaboration, candor, and focus.

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