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10 Essential Elements that Grantmakers Seek

GCN research shows that there are ten major components that are essential for creating a robust, clear, accountable and comprehensive strategic plan that will drive your mission forward while meeting grantmakers' high expectations. 

Background information

This should explain the process you went through to create the plan. Because your audience ranges from brand new staff and board members to grantmakers, the plan needs to explain how it was developed. Make a record of the process you use to develop the strategic plan, the environmental factors influencing it, and the people involved in putting it together.


Vision Statement

Describe the world your organization wants to create, and its part in creating that world. This should be as clear and concise as possible. One good example is Habitat for Humanity’s: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”


Mission Statement 

describing your organization’s part in creating the world you envision. This should be complete, but to the point. (Think about using bullet points, and preparing full and truncated versions for different uses.) A good example: “The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.”


Core Values

These guide your organization’s approach. What are your central principles as a culture of change-makers? Organizations that can answer this question honestly and accurately often make the best hiring choices. Zoo Atlanta has this well-defined list displayed prominently on its website: Stewardship: We take personal responsibility for the animals in our care as well as all the resources we use. Integrity: We are honest, fair, reliable and sincere. We are trustworthy and value the trust of our community. Collaboration: We maintain an environment of trust, openness, respect and transparency to maximize the creativity and productivity of our organization. Diversity and Individuality: We will recruit and support employees and volunteers with diverse perspectives and talents that result in a strong, focused and innovative organization. Commitment to Members and Guests: We create an enriching and welcoming atmosphere for all members and guests. 


Strategic Goals and Objectives

The “big picture” of your results over a given time frame. Strategic Goals should be important, longer-term goals that apply to the entire organization. The link between each goal and your organization’s success should be clear and obvious. Objectives are the specific results that contribute to the achievement of each goal: what you aim to achieve within a time frame and with available resources. Objectives should be fairly explicit: a 30% reduction in high school dropout rates among at-risk students over three years. 



The steps you’ll take to meet each objective. These are programs and services—your on-the-ground work.  


A Staffing Plan

Your listing of who is responsible for carrying out those tactics—the more specific, the better.


A Timeline

A thoughtful, attainable time approach for execution of the plan.


A Revenue Plan

How will you gather and deploy the resources needed to carry out and sustain your plan? Include both financial and non-financial resources.


An Evaluation Plan

What metrics will you use for measuring progress toward your objectives and strategic goals. How will you know whether or not your plan is getting results?


Most critically, especially for funders, is explaining how your vision and mission align with your resource use—the money and manpower that goes into your programs, services, and other activities.


Chris Allers is executive vice president at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and senior consultant of GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group.

Marc Schultz is managing editor of NOW.

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