Three Step Process for Strategic Planning

Zach Clark


“Strategic planning” is one of those terms that just gets thrown around. The variety of perspectives on strategic planning, its processes, and its outcomes seem infinite.


The problem is that you can end up drowning while trying to grab hold of this big idea while people keep saying, “We need a strategic plan!”


Strategic planning is not about getting a perfect plan for a predictable future for your ministry. It’s about the discipline and process of planning and its impact, coupled with a final product that can be implemented. Your strategic plan should be alive, vibrant, and not sitting on a shelf gathering dust.


Strategic planning is a powerful tool for you as a leader. I want to equip you with a set of disciplines and skills that are based upon nearly twenty years of working with faith-based nonprofit organizations.


Step 1: Start with who then what.

First, we need to use the Jim Collins approach. Start with who then clarify the what of the planning process. Before we think about a process or ideas for strategies included in a plan, we need to think about who the best people are to get involved. Not all staff and volunteers are created equally when it comes to planning.


Strategic planning should be an amazing process that involves amazing people. I encourage leaders to develop a list of 50-100 people to involve in planning. This group of people is not only thinking about the future but may even end up involved and committed to implementation when the strategic planning process is concluded. Powerful!


Now, what are these planning people and teams going to work on? This is your first opportunity to provide leadership. We believe that the leader should define the boundaries of the strategic plan. The best way to do this is to define the planning process around the questions you have about your organization’s various aspects. What are you pondering as a leader for the future of your ministry or organization in these specific areas? Let this shape the questions you ask.


We encourage you to think in terms of five or ten groups of questions. Here are some examples of those groups to be thinking within.

  1. Financial sustainability

  2. Messaging, marketing, and public relations

  3. Effectiveness