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Solid Evidence: Strategic Planning Practices Result in Higher Performing Nonprofits

Presented at: Annual Meeting of the Association for Strategic Planning
Atlanta GA - April 23, 2013
Presented by: Denise McNerney (iBossWell, Inc.), Dominic Perri (Essential Conversations Group) and Margaret Reid (University of Arkansas)
Sponsored by: Association for Strategic Planning and the University of Arkansas, Department of Political Science

In March 2012 the initial findings from a national survey of 501c3 nonprofit organizations (NPOs) was presented during the Annual Conference of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). The study attempted to ascertain successful strategic planning practices by administering a national survey to more than 20,000 501c3 organizations. Initial findings of the approximately 1000 responses led to further analyses of those organizations that considered themselves highly successful. On April 23, 2013, the additional analysis of the data collected in this effort was presented during the Annual Conference of ASP in Atlanta, GA.


The current analyses produced the following highlights:
  • Successful practices that can be used to guide processes for plan development;

  • Successful practices help drive the creation of a culture of discipline for ongoing plan implementation and oversight practices;

  • Overall, compelling data that makes the case for the value of good strategic planning and management practices by enhancing overall organizational success.
Certainly, the most compelling finding of this research thus far is: Highly successful Nonprofits credit strategic planning and management to their overall success to a greater extent than lower success organizations. Ninety three percent of successful organizations report that strategic planning has "some to critical impact" on overall success, whereas only 48% of low-success organizations report such impact, with another 44% reporting "no to minimal" impact. Furthermore, there is a statistically significant difference by "Success" but not a statistically significant difference by "Size" of NPO, indicating that even small Nonprofits can conduct successful strategic plan development and ongoing management, and find that it significantly impacts their overall success.


Additional details were presented that included successful practices in both plan development as well as plan implementation, with highlights of significant differences in practices between highly successful Nonprofits compared to low and/or medium successful organizations. Additionally, the researchers shared their interpretation on the implications of these findings, as well as challenged the nonprofit sector with a call for action to raise the bar of the quality of strategic planning practices in the nonprofit sector. Click below for a written version of the presentation:


Why Strategic Planning is More Important than Ever for NPOs

A landmark national survey regarding successful practices in strategic planning for non-profit 501c3 organizations, was conducted by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), with support from the University of Arkansas Department of Political Science, in March 2012. Initial findings of the 1000+ responses were reported during the May 2012 ASP Annual Conference. These findings included the following three items of significant interest to advocates for the strategic planning process in this sector:
  • The driver for strategic planning in high success organizations is "Routine periodic process in our organization." Whereas in low success organizations, the driver for planning is "Driven by significant risks/challenges"

  • Successful organizations report having successful plan implementation practices; low success organizations report that they do not have successful implementation practices.

  • Highly successful organizations report that strategic planning has high impact on overall organizational success. Low success organizations do not report strategic planning as key to overall organizational success.
For additional details of initial findings presented at the ASP national conference please click below:




Further analysis of the data will be conducted later in 2012 to determine other significant findings of this research. For future information on this research, contact Denise McNerney, ASP Research Analysis Sub-committee Lead:

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