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Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation

(4th Edition, April 2018)

Table of Contents and Figures


by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, partner in Authenticity Consulting, LLC

Includes numerous worksheets about all aspects of strategic planning that you can promptly download and use with each of your planners.

"The guidebook is awesome!"
-- Christie Hammes
Director, Strategic Development Services
MAP for Nonprofits, Inc.

(Book review by Jane Garthson)

Updates Included in This 4th Edition!

This 4th Edition published in July 2018 is your up-to-date resource for facilitating successful strategic planning. It includes many more guidelines and resources to:

This Fourth Edition includes numerous additions that keep the Field Guide up-to-date as well as suggestions from numerous readers over the years since the Third Edition. Major additions include:

  • More models of strategic planning that can be used to customize the strategic planning process even more.
  • A downloadable guide that includes step-by-step guidelines to apply the most common techniques for facilitating strategic planning.
  • Guidelines to develop a clear and concise contract between the facilitator and planners.
  • Guidelines to know when to facilitate, train or coach at different times with planners.
  • Guidelines to ensure your strategic planning meetings remain focused on strategic topics.
  • Guidelines to acculturate the planning process to suit the nature and needs of any group of planners.
  • Guidelines to draft a basic budget for the costs of conducting a realistic, relevant and flexible strategic planning process.
  • More tools for strategic analyzing, thinking and discussions.
  • Comparisons of for-profit and nonprofit planning to enable more for-profit planners to quickly learn how to help nonprofits with their strategic planning.
  • Updated Glossary, Recommended Readings and list of resources to assist strategic planning facilitators.
  • Summary of eighteen key points in strategic planning to share with your planners.

Why Should You Buy This Strategic Planning Book?

  1. There are many books that tell you what content should end up being in your strategic plan. However, there are few books that also tell you how to get that content in your strategic plan. Our book tells you how to facilitate a group of planners to customize the right content for the nature and needs of your organization.
  2. If you struggle to generate the content to put into your Strategic Plan, then contact us and we will share advice about that content.

Focus of Guidebook

When members of nonprofit organizations struggle with their strategic planning process or their plan ends up not being useful at all, it is rarely because their planning process did not include state-of-the-art techniques in facilitation or the latest models in strategic planning. Rather, it is because their process 1) did not completely suit the nature and needs of the nonprofit and 2) did not thoroughly address all of the most critical, "core" aspects of strategic planning.

Guidelines in this guidebook are focused on customizing and implementing an organization- or program-wide, strategic planning process for a nonprofit organization. Guidelines will show you, step-by-step, how to conduct a very complete, simplified (not simplistic!) strategic planning process that is very realistic, flexible and suited to the nature of the typical nonprofit organization. Guidelines are useful to cultures that prefer highly rational approaches to planning or more naturalistic and unfolding (organic) approaches.

One of the best ways to ensure that the strategic planning process is highly effective is to ensure that facilitation of the process is highly effective as well. Therefore, this guidebook also provides complete, step-by-step techniques and tools for facilitating every aspect of nonprofit strategic planning -- one of the few strategic planning books, if any, to include that information for facilitators.

The book is organized so that the reader can use it to conduct a complete strategic planning process, or it can be used as a reference manual to address certain phases of planning when needed.

Content of Guidebook

PART I of the guidebook includes guidelines to help the reader gain clear understanding of the strategic planning process, including how it guides the direction, structure and operations of all facets of nonprofit organizations. Ultimately, from reading this section, the reader realizes the importance of customizing the strategic planning process to suit the nature and needs of the typical nonprofit organization.

PART II includes complete, step-by-step guidelines to customize a strategic planning process that is relevant, realistic and flexible. Guidelines make frequent reference to numerous practical tools and techniques spread throughout the guidebook. The planning process is divided into six overall phases, including:

  1. Preparing a thorough "plan for a plan" to customize your strategic planning process.
  2. Conducting realistic situational analyses, external and internal to the organization.
  3. Establishing consensus-driven strategic direction for the organization, including meaningful mission (and vision and/or values, if preferred), goals and strategies.
  4. Developing realistic and flexible implementation plans, including action plans, performance plans, staffing plans and an operating budget.
  5. Developing and communicating the strategic plan document, including thorough review and approval.
  6. Monitoring implementation and adjusting plans, including specific approaches and tools to track status of implementation, along with clearly making changes to plans as needed.

PART III is a Toolkit for the facilitator of the nonprofit strategic planning process, whether the facilitator is internal or external to the organization. Specific procedures are included for the most useful techniques used in facilitating nonprofit strategic planning. Guidelines suggest which technique to use and when. The techniques are referenced throughout the book, as well. The section ends with numerous guidelines and tips about how to address the most common challenges that can arise during facilitation of strategic planning.

Appendices include numerous resources for strategic planners, including:

  • Glossary of most common terms in strategic planning
  • Vast resources for nonprofits (many of them free)
  • Comprehensive, practical tool to conduct an internal analysis of your organization and compare results to best practices in nonprofit organizations
  • Quick, convenient methods to collect information from important stakeholders
  • Guidelines to recruit and hire a consultant, including a strategic planning facilitator
  • Description of the culture, designs, Board structures, cycle of operations and designs of programs in the typical nonprofit organization
  • Worksheets to conveniently identify and organize the most important information about all aspects of your customized strategic planning process (these worksheets are available on-line, as well)
  • Tools to help planners carefully analyze strategic issues and goals and then identify the most relevant and suitable strategies to address those issues and goals

Be sure to see the book's Table of Contents and Figures and Index.

You Can Use this Guidebook to Learn About:

  • Nonprofits, including their typical nature, needs and designs, along with common challenges when conducting strategic planning
  • The strategic planning process, including its purpose, major benefits and influences to the nonprofit organization, along with common myths about the process, what it will do and what it won't do for you
  • Facilitating strategic planning, including the role, common techniques and when to use them, and how to address the most common challenges in facilitating strategic planning -- along with complete, step-by-step guidelines to guide planners to customize and carry out their strategic planning process
  • Cultivating strong ownership and commitment of the members of the organization in their planning process
  • Structuring strong, strategic thinking in all aspects of the strategic planning process
  • Ensuring that plans are highly relevant, realistic and flexible
  • Ensuring implementation and necessary adjustments to plan


This guidebook will be extremely useful to you, whether:

  • Yours is a new or established nonprofit.
  • You are conducting strategic planning for the first time or have done planning before.
  • Your organization is facing several major, current issues or you are using planning just to "fine tune" things in your organization.
  • You are facilitating the strategic planning process yourself or having someone else facilitate the process for your nonprofit.
  • You prefer a highly rational approach to decision making and problem solving or a more unfolding and holistic (organic) approach.

This guidebook will also be extremely useful to you if you are:

  1. You are a service provider to nonprofits and wish to provide more qualified strategic planning facilitators to the nonprofits in your area.
  2. Member of a nonprofit who can't afford a strategic planning facilitator, but are willing to work through the process to customize your own strategic plan if you have a step-by-step resource.
  3. Someone who wants to learn how to facilitate strategic planning for nonprofits.
  4. Someone who doesn't already know a lot about nonprofits.

Our Other Useful Nonprofit Publications

Other Authors' Publications for Nonprofit Organizations

Our Nonprofit Strategic Planning Facilitation and Training

  • We provide strategic planning facilitation, including customizing the strategic planning process and materials to suit the nature and needs of your nonprofit.
    Learn more about our consultation.
  • We also provide a training session, Foundations for Successful Nonprofit Strategic Planning, which helps attendees to begin planning their strategic planning process and to ensure that their planning process is highly successful. We can also customize this training to suit the nature and needs of your nonprofit.

To Order Your Strategic Planning Guidebook Now

  • The guidebook is $32 each. Revised April 2018, 293 pages (including hardcopy worksheets and access to on-line worksheets). Paperback. 30-day, money-back guarantee.
  • To Order and Quickly Receive Your Publication
    NOTE: If you experience any problems processing your order, please call 800.971.2250 or 763.971.8890.