Framework for writing a strategic plan for a charity or social enterprise

By Marcus Coetzee, 2 February 2023.

A. Introduction

B. Basic principles for writing a strategic plan

C. The logic behind this outline

D. Sequence for writing your strategic plan

E. The building blocks

F. The suggested outline for a strategic plan

G. Developing a short-cut version

H. Conclusion

A. Introduction

Here is a framework to help charities, nonprofit organisations and social enterprises to write their strategic plans. It focuses on ‘writing’ the plan rather than the strategic planning process which consists of workshops, conversations, strategic exercises and desktop research. 

There is no correct format for a strategic plan. This framework sets out my thoughts on strategic plans and my preferred method of writing them. These insights stem from decades of working with such plans. 

You must choose a format that works for you and your organisation. Some organisations will pick the bits that enable them to write a concise plan of under 10 pages, whereas larger and more complex organisations might choose to respond to all the prompts, and write a more comprehensive plan of 20 pages. 

Treat this article like a menu and use whatever parts of this framework make sense to you. Adapt or discard the remainder. This framework is detailed so that it can offer you an array of choices.

B. Basic principles for writing a strategic plan

Below are some principles to apply when writing your strategic plan once you have completed your strategic planning process. 

1. Start with a template but adapt it. Every strategic plan ends up taking a life of its own as it evolves and morphs beyond the original outline. This is expected and perfectly ok since writing this plan is a creative process. Sometimes it will make sense to combine or eliminate sections, or to add new ones. Your organisation must ultimately end up with a unique plan that fits its needs. This article contains a suggested template and set of instructions for how to use it.

2. Concise plans work best. Sadly, most people will not read any document longer than a handful of pages unless they are a student writing a paper or it is part of their job. Readers are overwhelmed with work and life. They have little time to study a document unless they must. They might scroll or page through it and only read the introduction and conclusion. I tend to do the same. Furthermore, few organisations in this sector are so large or complex that they require equally large or complex strategic plans. Therefore it is best to write concisely, keep the content of your strategic plan as short as possible, and ensure that sections are clearly indexed and labelled.

3. Shorter plans are easier to update. The world changes quickly nowadays. Longer strategic plans tend to be operationally and tactically focused; they contain more details which tend to fall out of sync with the current reality and the emerging future. Then these plans become useless and end up in a drawer somewhere. Longer plans also tend to be difficult to update and bring back in line with what an organisation must do to move ahead. If there is an expectation that your strategic plan will need to be regularly updated throughout the year, then it is most likely not that strategic after all.

4. A strategic plan must be current. Update the plan when your organisation undergoes a restructure or a significant change in direction, or if your strategic context has changed. Once a year is a good timeframe on average to update or refine your strategic plan. In contrast, you will need to update your operational plans more regularly since they deal with detailed activities and resources that must consistently be fine-tuned.

5. Strategic plans are different from operational plans. A strategic plan is a high-level game plan that explains the direction of an organisation and its decisions on how it will get there. Strategic plans tend to change little throughout the year as their concepts remain valid. In contrast, operational plans tend to contain detailed tactics, activities, schedules, budgets and resources. These tend to change frequently throughout the year. Nowadays, many organisations even upload their operational plans into their project or task-management software where they can easily update them. I believe that strategic plans and operational plans should be separate documents since they serve different purposes and have different audiences. 

6. Strategic plans versus strategic tools. There are several useful tools, thinking frameworks and exercises that organisations use in the leadup to writing their strategic plans. Activities like SWOT analysis, PESTAL analysis, value-chain analysis, gap analysis, vision boards, risk registers, Appreciative Inquiry, brainstorms and stakeholder consultation are useful and insightful. These can be useful exercises to conduct during strategic workshops as they generate a shared understanding of the strategic context and challenges faced by an organisation. These insights are needed to develop a strategic plan. However, they should inform the strategy but remain on the backend, and ideally in a separate document. 

7. A strategic plan is primarily for communications. A strategic plan is both a tool to communicate your strategy to others and an agreement between stakeholders on what to do and where to focus an organisation’s energies. It communicates an organisation’s values, the direction that it is heading, the difficult choices it has made and the rationale behind them. It communicates its business model and structure. It is equally important to communicate what an organisation is not and why. Therefore, the strategic plan must be clear and persuasive and accessible by all key audiences.

8. The plan must be concrete. Avoid general expressions of intent or policy statements such as, “We will get closer to our customers” or “we will engage with our stakeholders” or “we will fundraise more effectively”. These platitudes are meaningless and a waste of space. Go back and do more thinking until you can provide specific decisions, tangible goals and clear observations.

9. Strategic plan versus business plan. While some people use the words interchangeably, there are some differences in emphasis. A strategic plan tends to be a plan for the entire organisation, regardless of the type of organisation. In contrast, a business plan tends to be focused on earning revenue (i.e. selling goods and services) and/or a specific business venture. Business plans tend to be sales documents aimed at attracting loan or equity finance from an investor whereas strategic plans are more focused on recording agreements on the way forward for an organisation. 

10. Strategic plans for charities and social enterprises tend to be multi-dimensional. These organisations must often consider their obligations to their customers, beneficiaries, volunteers, donors, grant funders, investors and partners. Furthermore, it is more difficult for charities to build financial reserves and have discretion over how to spend their funds because of the restrictions imposed on them by their grant funders. These factors can make their plans very complex relative to other organisations of their size.

11. A strategic plan involves writing the essence of the way forward. Writing a strategic plan requires you to make sense of complex information and extract the key points. It is a similar process to a student writing an abstract for their paper or a copywriter working on the text for a website. Sometimes, a single sentence will suffice to explain a concept or component of the strategy while other times a paragraph will be necessary. Self-imposed limitations such as the number of pages, words or points can help you to identify the essential points of what to write. Remember that many of the details rather belong in your operational plans such as your communications plan or monitoring and evaluation plan – these you will develop later once your strategy has been signed-off by your board.  

12. A strategic plan should look professionally formatted. If one of the purposes of the strategic plan is meant to communicate your strategy, then it should look like a professional document that embodies and uplifts your organisation’s brand. For example, it must have a proper cover page, table of contents, a coherent system of headings, and use the font styles and colour scheme of your brand. Fortunately, it is very easy to create a professional-looking document with modern word-processing software and some attention to detail. If this is not your skill, then find someone with better editing and design skills to give your document a makeover.

13. A strategic plan should make things much clearer for everyone. When someone reads it, they should feel their confusion evaporate and be able to see their role in helping to implement this plan. It is best to use simple and straightforward language and to choose active tense and short sentences where possible. Avoid jargon since it’s confusing. I frequently use free tools such as the Grammarly plugin for my web browser,  the MS Word grammar editor, and the online Hemmingway Editor to help me to edit and simplify cumbersome paragraphs. The in-built grammar editor in MS Word has significantly improved over the past several years and I have been using it much more than before. These tools all help to make your document more accessible. 

14. A strategic plan should reveal a focused organisation. It is not believable for an organisation to try and do everything itself and be all things to all people. It comes across as naive and an unwise dilution of resources. It is a common failing of inexperienced entrepreneurs. The strategic plan should demonstrate focus and clear boundaries between what your organisation will and will not do, and who it serves and does not serve. It is best to work in partnership with other focused organisations that offer complimentary products rather than trying to do everything oneself. All parties will be more likely to win this way. This focus should also demonstrate a healthy balance between its efforts to achieve impact versus its efforts to sustain itself.

15. Bottom-up thinking to inform the plan; top-down thinking to develop the plan. When writing a strategic plan, you will need to use both inductive and deductive reasoning. Bottom-up thinking (inductive reasoning) is needed to gather lots of information from different sources to draw conclusions about what is going on. In contrast, the planning process tends to require top-down thinking (deductive reasoning) where you start with the vision and long-term outcome, make assumptions about what is likely to happen in the future, and then plan in broad strokes back from there. During the year, you will then flesh the ideas and decisions in your strategic plan when you develop operational plans and other strategies. It is unwise and time-consuming to do the reverse and make the initial strategic plan a summary of all that will follow. 

A good metaphor is planning a family holiday to another country or part of your country. You gather a lot of information from a multitude of sources to form a picture about where you want to go and what you want do. Then you make some assumptions about the future and plan and agree on the key elements of your holiday. This is your strategic plan. Finally, when you go on holiday and arrive at your destination, you do a second set of planning as you try to reconcile the reality of what you encountered with your original plans, and as you fill in many of the operational details as many things become much clearer along the way. 

C. The logic behind this outline

Five concepts underpin this framework for a strategic plan. 

The first concept is that this strategic plan is assembled using building blocks. These include universal sections like the introduction, organisational philosophy and conclusion. These building blocks also include sub-strategies like an impact strategy or financial strategy which all organisations should include in their strategic plans. I use the term ‘sub-strategy’ to describe a strategy that deals with a specific topic (e.g. monitoring and evaluation), which will be outlined in the organisational strategy and possibly fleshed out into a detailed operational plan at a later date. Additional building blocks include optional sub-strategies such as the investment strategy or revenue strategy which only some organisations will require. You will need to judge what building blocks are relevant to your strategic plan.

Each building block has a proposed page limit. This will help you to identify what information is essential to the reader of the strategic plan and therefore must be included. This will take some consideration. Remember that this is a strategic plan and not an operational plan. Then when you have written your first draft of the plan, you can then revise or merge sections, integrate new content, and adapt the plan into whatever form you want.

The second concept is that all activities must enable an organisation to implement its mission, achieve its vision and ultimately change the world. This is why organisations like charities and social enterprises exist in the first place. The impact strategy is the most important component of the strategic plan. All the other components and sub-strategies must support this critical strategy otherwise they will distract and undermine your organisation. This logic is illustrated in the diagram below. 

all strategies serve the mission

The third concept is that each sub-strategy has its own overall long-term outcome that it intends to achieve. This is a single sentence which is unlikely to change year to year. You will need to write an overall long-term outcome for your impact strategy, marketing strategy, financial strategy and so on. I like to highlight this sentence and/or make it bold so that it stands out from the remainder of the text.

Here’s an example of a long-term outcome that I recently wrote for the fundraising strategy of a charity: “To attract a healthy mixture of restricted and unrestricted funding in the form of grants and donations, which enable [organisation name removed] to make long-term plans and implement the necessary projects.” Moving towards these long-term outcomes will move your organisation towards its vision. 

The fourth concept is that each sub-strategy has a few handpicked goals that will move your organisation towards its desired long-term outcome. You should identify up to three goals per sub-strategy for each year that your strategic plan will cover. Some organisations might be able to set goals for the next three years whereas others might only set goals for the year ahead. The best option depends on your organisation and the situation it is in. Try and set goals for each of the sub-strategies that you choose to include in your strategic plan. It is also ok to choose no goals for a sub-strategy that is on course and where no immediate changes are required.

Goals should be tangible so you know exactly what you want your organisation to achieve and can confirm when it has. Goals should require focused effort which means they might be outside of your normal trajectory or pattern of behaviour. This will encourage your organisation to move outside of its comfort zone which is valuable as those that don’t challenge themselves are likely to stagnate over time. Goals should be realistically achievable within a 12-month period regardless of whether this is in the next year, the following year or the year after that. Each goal should be the result of several activities that must go well in order for the goal to be achieved. Finally, goals may be a milestone in a process or a specific target number.

It takes some practice to learn how to set appropriate goals. Here are two examples: one non-work and one work-orientated.

Someone who jogs regularly might set a goal to run their first marathon by the end of the year. This requires them to be on a strict training programme, eat well, have a running partner or be a member of a club, get sufficient rest etc. This goal is tangible, verifiable, requires additional focus and effort, is outside of their comfort zone and requires several effective activities to achieve. 

For our next example, consider Steps Clubfoot Care which recently hosted the first African conference on treating clubfoot in children. It had set a goal of attracting 65 paying delegates from Africa and elsewhere to attend in person. It also set a goal to breakeven. It successfully achieved both these goals in 2022 as 133 people attended the conference at the venue. This goal required that its website, brand, newsletters, brochures and other communications all worked effectively and coherently throughout the year. 

It is common for organisations to mistakenly set goals as the outcomes of each activity. Consider a charity’s marketing and communications strategy. It might be tempting to incorrectly set an annual set of goals to achieve a revised website, updated brand, four newsletters, one successful conference, revamped Instagram page, and a new brochure. These are tangible goals which are good, but they are too activity-focused and won’t help to steer your organisation. You should rather try to identify one or two goals that would be the 12-month results of these activities. I do, however, accept that there are organisations for whom establishing a user-friendly and informative website is a good goal for the year, but the point should nevertheless be clear.

The fifth concept is the use of prompts on the type of contents that you might want to include in each section. In some instances, there are specific statements about what is required. In other cases, there are questions to consider because the requirements are unique to your organisation. Your answers to these prompts might vary in length depending on your situation. Sometimes a single sentence may suffice while other prompts might require a paragraph or table to address. As a general guideline, keep everything as concise as possible and edit to remove all non-essential information.

D. Sequence for writing your strategic plan

It is wise to consider how you will approach this writing project before you dive into it. The following diagram below suggests some steps that you might want to follow. 

As you can see from the first three steps, you should only begin to write this plan once your team has a good understanding of what is going on, both inside and around your organisation. If you try to write this plan before you’ve made sense of this, then you are likely to create a flawed plan with poor goals.

This sequence requires you to identify the long-term outcome (step 5), goals (step 6) and highlights (step 7) for each of the sub-strategies that you have chosen to include in your strategic plan. The details of these sub-strategies can be fleshed out into detailed operational plans at a later point, based on the skeleton that you have laid out for them. For example, your organisation might choose to expand its brand and communications strategy into a detailed brand and communications plan with workplans, people and budgets included.

This strategic plan is also likely to go through several iterations as it is reviewed (step 10), and as you go back and refine the goals and approach for each sub-strategy. 

Once the strategic plan has been signed-off, your organisation should focus on implementing it until such time as the plan needs updating. This either be because a year has passed and the plan needs updating, or because something has happened that significantly changes how your organisation must do things. It is more likely that you will need to update your operational plans, rather than your strategy, during the year.

E. The building blocks

There are several building blocks that you will use to construct your strategic plan. These are illustrated by the diagram below. You will need to identify which ones are relevant to your organisation based on its business model, size, complexity, resources and scale of operations. Some organisations will require much simpler and shorter strategic plans, and the shortcuts for writing these abridged plans are described in section G of this article.

The numbers show the recommended order of these sections. Written concisely, and properly edited, this should create a strategic plan of between 10-20 pages in length, which is ideal.

F. The suggested outline for a strategic plan

Below are suggestions of what to include in each section of your strategic plan. Go through this section with a highlighter to identify which parts are relevant to the strategic plan that you are about to write. Then when writing it, remember to keep your answers to the prompts concise and evaluate whether a sentence, paragraph, table or diagram is required.

The numbers correspond with the diagram of the building blocks from the diagram above.

1. Cover page

Target length = 1 page. Here are some things that should go on the cover page.


Organisation name

Charity and/or company registration number

Contact details

Date that plan is finalised

Time period that the strategic plan will cover.

An uplifting image that conveys the essence of your work.

2. Table of Contents

Insert a table of contents that uses automated heading styles and remember to update it when you have finished your draft. This makes the document look more professional and easier to navigate. Even if it is only 10 pages, it still needs a table of contents and page numbers.

3. Executive Summary

Target length ~ 10% of the overall length of the strategy (excluding any appendices). Most people outside of your organisation will only read this summary so it must be a standalone section. It is easiest to write this summary once everything else is completed.

Provide a distilled summary of your strategy that explains your organisation’s direction and goals, its strategic situation, anticipated challenges, and how it will overcome them.

Consider including a table with the long-term outcomes and goals from each sub-strategy. This will help to convey the direction of your organisation and its desired achievements for the next 12-36 months, which is where it will focus its efforts.

4. Introduction

Target length < 1 page. It requires a fair amount of distilling to write the introduction and context for the strategy. Write this introduction as if the executive summary does not exist.

About this document. Explain what this document is and the period it covers. 

Introduce your organisation. Provide a brief overview that touches on its history, sector, geographical footprint, beneficiaries/cause, goods/services, and business model. This paragraph must convey that your organisation is credible.

Intention. What are the key things that your organisation intends to do over the period covered by this strategic plan?

Significance. Why is it essential that your organisation does its work and brings this strategy to life?

Challenges. Your organisation is likely to encounter several challenges as it implements this strategic plan. How does it intend to overcome these?

Timeframe. What are the general time frames for the major milestones in this strategy?

5. Operating Context

Target length = ½ page to 1 page. This section must show that you understand the key external influences on your organisation and have insight into what is going on around you. 

Broader economy. What is going on in the broader economy that is significant to your organisation and its work?

Sector of work. What is your sector of work and is there anything happening in it (or to it) that is relevant and significant to your organisation?

Geographical region. Is there anything significant happening in your geographical area that is relevant to your organisation? This is especially important if you are a place-based organisation.

Policy environment. Are there any significant changes in government policy at a national, local or departmental level that are influencing your strategy?

Competitive environment. Has anything changed about the nature of competition in your sector that has bearing on your strategic choices? 

6. Organisational Philosophy

Target length = ½ page to 1 page. Your organisation’s philosophy contains the more abstract and ethereal components of its strategy. It explains how it sees the world and seeks to operate. It informs all decisions and sets its strategic direction and parameters. I have written about how to develop a philosophy for your organisation.

Philosophy. What is your organisation’s philosophy of life that explains how it sees the world and how it believes the world should operate.

Values. Explain a maximum of five values that your organisation has made explicit and is genuinely striving to be congruent with. Only include these if it is the case.

Vision. Provide your official vision statement which must be stated in terms of the beneficiaries or cause (and not your organisation’s grandeur).

Mission. Provide your organisation’s official mission or purpose statement.

7. Impact Strategy 

Target length < 2 pages. This explains how your organisation seeks to create positive changes for its beneficiaries and/or cause. It focuses on its programmes and projects. This should be the heart of your organisation and the reason why it exists. All the other parts of your organisation exist solely to support this impact strategy. Remember that you must outline the basic structure or skeleton of your impact strategy; the details can be fleshed out into detailed operational plans at a later stage once this document is completed.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single clear sentence that explains the outcome that this impact strategy seeks to ultimately achieve. Highlight this sentence so that it stands out from the remainder of the text. It is the vision for this impact strategy. It is likely to resemble the overall vision of your organisation but be more focused and specific.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will seek to achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards the outcome above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Beneficiaries/cause. Describe your cause and/or beneficiaries. What are their needs and challenges? What will happen if this problem is not addressed? Cite some good evidence for credibility. Demonstrate your insight.

Current impact. What is the current impact that you are having on your beneficiaries or cause, and how do you know this is true? Your claims must be credible.

Beneficiary engagement. How has your organisation consulted and/or engaged with its beneficiaries and incorporated their insights and preferences into your impact strategy? This shows that your organisation listens and has a feedback loop to improve its approach.

Underlying impact logic. What is the underlying logic in how your organisation’s activities work together to achieve its impact and serve its beneficiaries and/or cause? You might use a tool such as a Theory of Change or United Way’s Logic Model, and if that is not practical, then create a simple diagram of how its interventions work together. Describe your illustration.

Programmes or projects. What specific programmes or projects does your organisation intend to run over the period covered by its strategy? (Programmes tend to be more ongoing while projects have set start/end dates, specific parameters and deliverables). Many organisations currently lack the resources to do everything in their Theory of Change and this is perfectly acceptable. It is better to do a few things well than lots of things poorly. 

8. Volunteer Strategy 

Target length < 1 page. This section is applicable to those organisations that have a formal volunteering programme or intend to launch one in the next 12 months. I have shared some insights about volunteering. Although the article is about volunteering in Scotland, it is more broadly applicable to volunteering in general and can help you to design a volunteer strategy.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single clear sentence that explains the outcome that this volunteer strategy seeks to ultimately achieve. Highlight this sentence.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will seek to achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards the outcome above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Need for volunteers. Explain exactly what work your volunteers will be doing and why paid staff will be unsuitable for this work. How many volunteers will be required overall and how many of them are already working with your organisation?

Value proposition to volunteers. Describe the impact that your organisation is having, or intends to have, on its volunteers. This will ensure that there is a fair value exchange between both parties. This impact must be clear and specific. Explain how your volunteers will acquire things like knowledge, skills, confidence, companionship and meaning to enable them to succeed in their lives.

Sourcing volunteers. Describe the exact type of volunteers that you are looking for. Explain how your recruitment and selection process will source such volunteers in a highly competitive environment where other charities will also want to recruit the top performers.

Managing volunteers. Explain the people and resources that your organisation will deploy to work with volunteers, use them effectively and ensure that volunteers’ own needs are met. 

9. Monitoring & Evaluation Strategy

Target length < 1 page. This section is applicable to all organisations since it is critical to monitor and evaluate the impact of your organisation.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence that explains the outcome that this monitoring & evaluation strategy seeks to ultimately achieve.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will seek to achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards the outcome above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Indicators. What are the key indicators that your organisation will track to measure its outputs, and short-term, medium-term and long-term outcomes? You don’t need to list all the indicators you use; just the most important ones. These indicators must align with your Theory of Change or Logic Model from your impact strategy. As a general rule, it is better to gather a few indicators accurately and regularly than a wide range of indicators poorly. Some indicators will also be less practical and/or more expensive to gather so you will need to make some difficult choices of which ones to use.

Methods. How will your organisation gather this information and ensure that the data is indicative of its impact? Your organisation will need to manage bias if it does any sampling. It must also consider the attribution problem which involves trying to isolate the impact that is due to your organisation (as opposed to another organisation or influence). Describe any research methods and tools that you use. 

Frequency. How frequently will you gather this information since it will tend to be costly and time-consuming to collect unless it is integrated into your impact process.  

Responsibility. Who will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating your impact? Will there be a specific staff member or will you use an external party?

Reporting. How often will you report on your impact and who will receive this information? Will these reports be for internal use only or will they also be shared amongst partners and your broader audience? What type of inferences or conclusions will you be able to make with the data you have gathered?

10. Financial Strategy

Target length < 2 pages. This section is relevant to all organisations though the length and complexity will vary depending on their size and complexity. It looks at the overall financial situation and game plan of your organisation. Be mindful that some financial information is better to keep confidential than share in this strategy.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that this financial strategy seeks to achieve.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall outcome above. 

Key financial principles. Explain your organisation’s approach to financial reserves, investments, overhead allocation/absorption, markups on services, cost structure and desired income mix (i.e. revenue, grants, donations, subsidies, revenue, dividends).

Funding secured. What proportion of the funds for the next 12 months of this strategic plan have already been secured? How or where does your organisation intend to secure the remainder? For example, will it be through fundraising, investments or business undertaking?

Investments. List any businesses or major assets that your organisation partially or fully owns, and any significant planned investments.

Financial projections. Provide a high-level annual budget with consolidated line items. If your organisation is rapidly growing and/or needs to break even and/or has debt to pay off, then show a five-year analysis of income and expenses. Sometimes, a cash flow forecast will be appropriate to include if your organisation has debt and repayments. Some social enterprises will need to include a summary of their financial model if they need to scale before they are viable. Depending on the complexity of this financial information, some items may need to be included as an appendix. 

11. Fundraising Strategy

Target length < 1.5 pages. This strategy is applicable to those organisations that intend to fundraise for grants and donations from individuals and organisations.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that this fundraising strategy seeks to achieve.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall outcome above.

Market analysis. What is the fundraising climate in which your organisation is operating and why is this the case? For example, an organisation dealing with carbon net zero faces a different set of challenges from one that supports carers. Where do you hope to get your funds from – i.e. which communities, grant funders, business, government departments or specific funds will you target and why? 

Fundraising team. Who will be responsible for fundraising and who will support them? Will this be an internal or external person or a team, and how will the roles be divided up.

Fundraising tools. What tools will be used to assist with the fundraising process? For example, these might be funding directories, online giving platforms or CRMs. 

Campaigns. Has your organisation planned any fundraising campaigns? If so, then what are they, when will they happen and what do they hope to achieve?

12. Revenue Strategy

Target length < 1.5 pages. This strategy is applicable to those organisations that intend to earn revenue from customers or service users – i.e. charge them a fee for a good or service. This is how social enterprises tend to earn most of their income.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that this revenue strategy seeks to achieve. 

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Targeted customers. Who exactly do you intend to sell your products to? Where are the based? How many of them are there? Do you have any evidence that they will purchase and use your product? Are their any distinctive customer segments?

Product. What goods and/or services do you intend to sell? How have you packaged them to be more attractive and useful to your customers? How will you price them?

Supply chain. Where and how will you source your inputs? Who are your suppliers and what is the nature of your relationship with them?

Processing. Is any manufacturing or processing involved, and if so, then how do you see this working?

Sales channels. How exactly you will reach out to your intended customers? How will sales work? Will you use any partners or resellers?

Competitors. What are your customers buying or using as a current alternative to your product, and who exactly is providing these to them? 

Unique selling point. What makes your product better than the alternatives that your targeted customers can access? Be specific.

13. Investment Strategy

Target length < 2 pages. This section is applicable to those organisations that intend to seek investment from investors during the next year.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its investment strategy.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Purpose of investment. What will this investment be used for and how will this advance the mission of the organisation? 

Investment types and amounts. What type of investment (e.g. loans, equity, quasi-equity, matching finance, community shares) is your organisation is looking for and the amount of each. 

Investment rationale. Why is your organisation looking for investment as opposed to the alternatives, which might be to fundraise or use own reserves, grow incrementally, partner with another organisation or lease an asset?

Possible investors. Have you identified potential investors and what type of contact has been established with them? 

Investment offering. What will your investors get in return for their money? What is their investment return and over which period? Will there be any surety? Mention any non-financial benefits they will get such as a position on the board. 

Profitability and payment. Where will your organisation get the funds to pay back investors? What are your repayment and profit/loss forecasts that will enable this?

Investment partners. Will you be working with any specialised organisations to get investment ready and to broker or campaign for this investment? Which organisations are these?

14. Brand And Communications Strategy 

Target length < 2 pages. This section is applicable to all organisations though it will target different stakeholders (e.g. investors, beneficiaries, customers, donors) depending on the business model of your organisation. The marketing elements typically included in this strategy have been moved into strategies such as the fundraising strategy, revenue strategy and investment strategy since they are unique to these. This brand and communication strategy is more focused on the overall organisation.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its brand and communication strategy.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Brand. What type of brand is your organisation aiming to cultivate? This is the sense of feeling that you want people to have about your organisation, which enables them to recognise it in a crowded marketplace and trust that it will be able to deliver on its promises. 

Positioning. How is your organisation positioned in its sector relative to its competitors and partners? What is its niche or speciality or differentiator that makes it special and stand out?

Stakeholders. Who are the organisations and groups of people that your organisation must maintain positive communications and build relationships with?

Messaging outcomes. What are the key messages that must be received by each group to keep them informed and involved, and to uplift your organisation’s brand?

Communication platforms. What types of communications are required and how will they be used? These might be online platforms and tools like websites, social media and newsletters. They might also be offline like workshops, posters, brochures and advertorials in magazines. 

Team. Who will be involved in the efforts to improve your organisation’s brand and deliver its brand and communications strategy? Will any media agencies or consultants be involved?

15. Partnership Strategy

Target length < 1 page. This strategy is applicable to all charities and social enterprises.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its partnership strategy.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. 

Existing partners. Provide the names of any key organisations that yours is working closely with and are integral to its impact and future success. Explain the nature of the relationship and how these will advance your organisation and its mission. Focus on the crucial partnerships as opposed to all of them.

New partners. Explain any key partnerships that your organisation has decided to cultivate and the nature of these intended relationships. 

16. Organization Design Strategy

Target length < 2 pages. This section is applicable to all organisations. This section will be more complex for organisations with hybrid structures.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its organisation design.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Core capabilities. Describe a maximum of five capabilities that your organisation is actively and consciously trying to cultivate and the rationale for each.

Organisational culture. What type of organisational culture are you trying to cultivate? 

Legal structure. Describe your legal structure(s). If there is more than one structure, then describe the purpose of each and the relationships between them. Explain if any new ones will be created and the reasons for this. Mention any certifications like charitable status.

Organisational chart. Insert a diagram of your organisational structure. If your organisation is small or medium, then identify or list those positions that are filled/unfilled and those your organisation intends to create over the next year or two. 

Governance. Explain how many trustees and/or directors there are, how often they meet, and the nature of any sub-committees that have been created. Mention the approach towards director remuneration. 

Management team. Explain the key roles of the members of the management team if these are not evident from the organisational chart above.

17. Environmental Mitigation Strategy

Target length ~ ½ page. This section is for all organisations. It focuses on the environmental impact of an organisation’s infrastructure and day-to-day operations. Specialised environmental organisations would have already discussed their programme outcomes in their impact strategy so focus this on the mitigation of harm caused by your infrastructure and activities. 

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its environmental mitigation strategy.

Goals for next year. Explain a maximum of 3 tangible goals per year that your organisation will achieve in the next 12-36 months to move towards this overall objective above. These goals can be milestones or numerical targets.

Positive environmental activities. What are the positive things that your organisation is already doing to have a net positive impact on the environment? For example, has it adopted a net zero strategy? Have any of its environmental results been quantified? What steps has your organisation already taken to intensify these in the future?

Negative impacts. What are the key negative impacts that your organisation is having on the environment? Mention up to five.

Mitigation. How does your organisation intend to mitigate these negative impacts?

18. High-level Risk Mitigation Strategy

Target length ~ ½ page. This section is applicable to all organisations. This is not the detailed risk register that the trustees prepare but rather an extract of the top five risks overall. There are no goals included in this sub-strategy since they will already be covered by the other ones in this plan.

Overall long-term outcome. Write a single highlighted sentence on the outcome that your organisation intends to achieve with its risk mitigation strategy.

Material risks. What are the top five things that your organisation is worried about – things that will undermine its well-being and impact? These are risks that keep leaders up at night. Mention when they are likely to manifest or the conditions that will trigger them.

Mitigation. What has your organisation been doing to mitigate these risks, and how will these efforts be intensified in the future?

19. Conclusion 

Target length ~ ½ page. 

Current status. One paragraph on the current status of your organisation and its strategic situation.

Lesson: One paragraph on the biggest lesson(s) or insight(s) from the year.

Challenges. One paragraph on the key challenges that lie ahead for your organisation. 

Solutions. One paragraph on the key solutions, shifts or changes that your organisation intends to make to move forward.

Positive ending. One paragraph to end this document on a positive note with a statement of confidence and aspiration. Make a statement of affirmation and call to action. 

19. Appendix

Sometimes your strategic plan may require supporting tables or details. Carefully consider whether they belong in this strategic plan or the operational plans. Then if they do belong here, mention them in the table of contents but attach them as separate documents. This is because they make a strategic plan bulky and because few people will want to see them. 

Workplan. One page GANTT chart or table that shows the milestones or goals over the next one to three years in the various aspects of the organisation.

Financial projections. Detailed profit/loss statements, cash flow projections, and/or snapshots of various scenarios of your financial model.

G. Developing a short-cut version

There will be times when you lack the means or time to develop a detailed strategic plan but nevertheless want to write something to guide your organisation. Here you will need to take some shortcuts, such as the ones suggested below.

Retain the cover page, table of contents, introduction, operating context, organisational philosophy, impact strategy and conclusion. Write them in full in the manner suggested above. It is essential that you understand your strategic environment and how your organisation will have an impact. 

Leave out the executive summary since the strategic plan will be short enough that this will not be required. 

Limit the sub-strategies to just their overall long-term outcomes, goals and some bullet points to describe their background and reasoning. Include a high-level budget under the financial section and an organisational chart under the organisational design strategy. Finally, include a work plan or timeline as an appendix that shows when each of the goals will be achieved. 

H. Conclusion

Remember that this is a helpful framework and not a definitive outline. This is designed to get you moving forward with the writing process. Choose the bits that are relevant to the type of strategic plan that you want to write for your organisation. Treat it like a menu at a restaurant. Please adapt, integrate, revise, import, merge, copy etc. as necessary to achieve this. Ultimately you want to create something that is clear and practical and able to point your organisation in the right direction and communicate this to others.

In pursuit of strategic clarity

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