How a Strategic Planning Consultant Can Transform Your Nonprofit

The Power of a Nonprofit Strategic Planning Consultant

A nonprofit strategic planning consultant is a valuable asset to any organization aiming to achieve impactful change. They guide the nonprofit through a structured process to clarify its vision, mission, and goals, aligning everyone toward a common purpose. Strategic planning in nonprofits is crucial for:

  • Maximizing collaboration among stakeholders
  • Fostering impactful change rather than competition
  • Ensuring stakeholder involvement to drive meaningful outcomes

Strategic planning helps nonprofits align their activities and resources to their mission, ensuring they make the biggest difference possible. According to Roger Martin, “All executives know that strategy is important. But almost all also find it scary, because it forces them to confront a future they can only guess at.” This anxiety can be mitigated with the expertise of a strategic planning consultant who brings the necessary experience and neutrality to navigate this complex process.

My name is Russell Rosario, co-founder of Profit Leap. With extensive experience as a fractional CFO, CPA, and software engineer, I’ve helped numerous organizations—including nonprofits—navigate strategic planning challenges and maximize their impact.

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What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is a structured process that helps organizations define their future direction and the steps needed to get there. It’s like setting up a GPS for your nonprofit. This process involves creating a clear vision, mission, goals, and a roadmap with measurable objectives.

Vision and Mission

Vision: Imagine looking out into the future and seeing what your nonprofit aspires to achieve in 5 to 10 years. This is your vision statement. It’s ambitious and pushes your organization to reach beyond its current capabilities. For example, Tesla’s vision to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy guides every decision they make.

Mission: While the vision looks forward, the mission focuses on the present. It answers the question, “Why does our nonprofit exist?” It defines the purpose of your organization and whom it serves. For instance, Amazon aims to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, clearly stating its purpose and audience.

Goals and Roadmap

Once the vision and mission are clear, the next step is to set goals. Goals are broad outcomes you want to achieve based on your vision and mission.

Roadmap: A strategic plan serves as a written roadmap for where your organization is going and how it will get there. This roadmap includes strategies, goals, objectives, and activities. For example, organizations might clarify their vision for the next 3, 5, or 10 years, but measurable goals and action plans typically cover a shorter 3-5-year period.

Measurable Goals

Setting measurable goals is crucial. These goals act as milestones to track your progress. According to studies, over 60% of strategic plans never make it to full implementation. That’s why it’s important to focus on strategic planning as a process, not just a product.

Example: Imagine a nonprofit aiming to reduce homelessness in their city by 20% over the next 5 years. This goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound, making it easier to track progress and make adjustments as needed.

The Process

The process of strategic planning involves bringing together your nonprofit’s leadership and stakeholders to build a shared vision for the future. This collaborative effort is arguably the most important part of strategic planning.

Why is it important? Without a strategic plan, organizations often struggle to prioritize, leading to mission drift, burnout, and financial instability. A good strategic plan helps align everyone around a set of goals while giving them the autonomy to pursue those goals in their own way.

Case Study: A major medical non-profit once received an invitation to join a consortium. Thanks to their clear strategic plan, they quickly decided it wasn’t aligned with their goals, saving time and resources. This example shows how a well-crafted strategic plan can streamline decision-making and improve efficiency.

Now that we’ve covered what strategic planning is, let’s dive into why nonprofits need strategic planning.

Why Nonprofits Need Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is crucial for nonprofits. It helps them stay focused, efficient, and impactful. Here’s why:


Nonprofits often juggle multiple projects. Without a clear plan, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A strategic plan helps organizations prioritize their efforts. For example, the East Oakland Collective used their strategic plan to focus on key initiatives that aligned with their mission. This clarity allowed them to allocate resources effectively and avoid spreading themselves too thin.

Mission Drift

Nonprofits can sometimes drift away from their core mission. This happens when they take on projects that are not aligned with their goals. A strategic plan acts as a compass, keeping the organization on track. By regularly reviewing and updating the plan, nonprofits can ensure they are always moving towards their mission.

Financial Stability

Financial stability is a constant challenge for many nonprofits. Strategic planning includes fiscal analysis, which helps organizations plan for funding. It also makes them more attractive to donors. For instance, Hopewell Music Cooperative North was able to pivot and respond effectively during the pandemic due to their strategic plan. This adaptability is key to maintaining financial health.

Staff Morale

A clear strategic plan boosts staff morale. When everyone knows the organization’s goals and their role in achieving them, they are more motivated. Genevieve Taylor, Executive Director of Ag Innovations, noted that their strategic planning process brought the board and staff together, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.


Fundraising is easier with a strategic plan. Donors want to see that their contributions will be used effectively. A well-documented plan provides assurance and transparency. Candice Elder from the East Oakland Collective mentioned that their strategic plan became a guiding document for grant applications, making the process more efficient and successful.

Next, we’ll explore the role of a nonprofit strategic planning consultant and how they can transform your organization.

The Role of a Nonprofit Strategic Planning Consultant

A nonprofit strategic planning consultant can be a game-changer for your organization. Let’s break down their role into key components: stakeholder participation, workplan, timeline, consensus building, and implementation support.

Stakeholder Participation

Stakeholders are crucial to nonprofit success. A strategic planning consultant ensures that all voices are heard. This includes board members, staff, donors, and the community you serve. Why is this important? Because stakeholders are both the effectors of and the affected by the changes your organization seeks to achieve. Involving them is almost a moral obligation.

For example, successful medical nonprofits often form consortia or communities. This collaboration maximizes impact, as seen in clinical research studies that require dozens of centers to work together.


A consultant will help you create a detailed workplan. This includes:

  • Creating a timeline: Setting clear deadlines keeps everyone on track.
  • Setting roles and expectations: Defining who does what ensures accountability.
  • Gathering and analyzing stakeholder input: This helps in understanding internal and external challenges.

A well-structured workplan is the backbone of any successful strategic planning process.


Timelines are essential for managing the strategic planning process. Your consultant will help you set realistic deadlines for each phase of the plan. This helps in avoiding last-minute scrambles and ensures a smooth flow of activities.

Consensus Building

Consensus building is where the magic happens. Your consultant will facilitate strategy sessions or retreats. These are intensive sessions with your board, staff, and other stakeholders. The goal is to build consensus and alignment around your mission and goals.

Roger Martin once said, “Strategy forces executives to confront a future they can only guess at.” This is where a consultant shines, helping you navigate uncertainties and align everyone towards a common vision.

Implementation Support

Once the strategic plan is ready, the real work begins—implementation. While this is often not part of the consultant’s formal scope, they can provide invaluable support. This includes:

  • Creating an accountability plan: Clearly outline each goal and assign responsibilities.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Set up processes to track progress and make necessary adjustments.

A strategic plan is a dynamic guide, not a static document. It should evolve as your organization grows and adapts to new challenges.

Next, we’ll discuss the benefits of hiring a nonprofit strategic planning consultant and how they can save you time, facilitate neutral discussions, and help in strategic decision-making.

Benefits of Hiring a Strategic Planning Consultant

Hiring a nonprofit strategic planning consultant can be a game-changer for your organization. Let’s break down the key benefits:


Creating a strategic plan is time-consuming. It involves gathering data, facilitating discussions, and drafting the plan. A consultant takes on these tasks, freeing up your team to focus on daily operations.

For example, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption found that strategic planning took longer than expected. By bringing in a consultant, they could focus on their mission while the consultant handled the planning process.

Neutral Facilitation

A consultant acts as a neutral facilitator. This is crucial because internal biases and dynamics can hinder honest discussions.

According to research, 95% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy. A consultant can bridge this gap by ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and aligning the team around a shared vision.

Consensus Building

Building consensus is hard, especially when stakeholders have different views. A consultant is skilled at bringing people together and finding common ground.

William Ury, a prominent negotiator, emphasizes the importance of finding a “third way” that integrates everyone’s interests. A consultant can help your organization reach this consensus faster and more effectively.

Strategic Decision Making

Strategic decisions should be based on long-term objectives and shared values. A consultant provides an objective perspective, helping you avoid groupthink and confirmation bias.

For instance, Roger Martin points out that focusing too much on planning can lead to avoiding critical choices. A consultant ensures that your strategic plan is actionable and aligned with your mission.

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By hiring a nonprofit strategic planning consultant, you gain expertise, save time, and create a more effective strategy. Next, we’ll discuss how to choose the right consultant for your organization.

How to Choose the Right Nonprofit Strategic Planning Consultant

Choosing the right nonprofit strategic planning consultant can make or break your strategic planning process. Here’s how to ensure you pick the best one for your organization.


Look for a consultant who has a proven track record. They should have facilitated strategic planning processes with successful results. Ideally, they should have worked with similar clients but still be committed to customizing the process for your organization. You don’t want a cookie-cutter approach.

Sector Familiarity

Make sure your consultant understands your sector. For instance, if you’re a medical nonprofit, they should know about disease foundations, professional societies, and academic research. This familiarity ensures they can better navigate your unique challenges and dynamics.

Proposed Scope

A well-defined project scope tells you a lot about a consultant’s process and professionalism. It should include a detailed description of the strategic planning process, timelines, and expected outputs. Ensure you understand:

  • What does the consultant’s process encompass?
  • How long will it take?
  • What is the expected time commitment from your team?

Roles and responsibilities should be clearly spelled out.

Strategic Planning Models

There are many strategic planning models and tools out there. Ask your consultant which method they propose to use and why. They should be able to explain their chosen model, how it works, and its benefits for your organization. Popular models include:

  • Classic Model
  • Issue-based Model
  • SWOT Analysis

Track Record

Always ask for references. Previous clients can provide insights into the consultant’s work and approach. If a consultant isn’t willing to provide references, consider it a red flag.


Consultant fees can vary widely, from $5,000 to $80,000 or more. It’s important to understand your needs and budget upfront. Share your budget range during your initial conversation with potential consultants. This helps ensure you find someone who can work within your financial constraints.

By focusing on these key areas, you can find a nonprofit strategic planning consultant who not only meets your needs but also helps drive your organization’s mission forward.

Next, we’ll dive into the steps involved in the strategic planning process.

Steps in the Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning helps nonprofits align their mission and goals with actionable steps. Here are the key steps in the strategic planning process:

1. Preparation

Preparation is crucial. This phase sets the foundation for a successful strategic plan. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a work plan and timeline: Outline the steps and set deadlines.
  • Set roles and expectations: Assign tasks to team members.
  • Gather and analyze stakeholder input: Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups.
  • Conduct an organizational assessment: Identify internal and external challenges and opportunities.
  • Clarify vision and mission: Ensure everyone understands the organization’s core purpose.

2. Strategic Planning Sessions

Strategic planning sessions are where the magic happens. These intensive sessions involve:

  • Facilitation: A strategic planning consultant often leads these sessions, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard.
  • Building consensus: Work together to align on key goals and strategies.
  • Identifying priorities: Focus on what’s most important for the organization’s success.

These sessions can take the form of retreats, workshops, or regular meetings.

3. Strategic Plan Creation

Once the planning sessions are complete, it’s time to create the strategic plan. This involves:

  • Drafting the plan: Your consultant will help prepare a written report or a detailed slide deck.
  • Reviewing and finalizing: Ensure all stakeholders review and provide feedback.
  • Ensuring alignment: Make sure the plan aligns with your organization’s vision and mission.
  • Creating a rollout strategy: Plan how to share the strategic plan with the entire organization.

4. Implementation

The final step is implementation. This is where the hard work pays off. Key actions include:

  • Developing an implementation strategy: Break down goals into specific action items with assigned responsibilities.
  • Keeping the plan visible: Regularly update and refer to the strategic plan in meetings and reports.
  • Monitoring progress: Use tools like Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive to track progress and make updates.
  • Reporting successes: Share progress with your board and stakeholders to keep everyone motivated and on track.

By following these steps, your nonprofit can create a strategic plan that is not only effective but also actionable.

Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about nonprofit strategic planning consultants.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nonprofit Strategic Planning Consultants

How much does a nonprofit strategic planning consultant cost?

The cost of hiring a nonprofit strategic planning consultant can vary widely. Fees range from $5,000 to $80,000 or more, depending on factors like the consultant’s experience, the scope of the project, and the size and complexity of your organization.

For example, a small nonprofit might spend around $5,000 to $10,000 for a basic strategic planning process, whereas a larger organization might need to budget $20,000 to $50,000 for a more comprehensive plan.

Factors affecting cost:
Experience: More experienced consultants often charge higher fees.
Scope: A detailed and extensive plan will cost more.
Organization size: Larger organizations may require more in-depth planning and stakeholder engagement.

What does a strategic planning consultant do?

A strategic planning consultant helps your nonprofit create a clear, actionable roadmap for the future. They facilitate the planning process, ensure stakeholder engagement, and provide expertise to guide your organization through each step.

Key roles of a consultant:
Facilitating discussions: They lead workshops and meetings to gather input from staff, board members, and other stakeholders.
Analyzing data: They review internal and external data to inform strategic decisions.
Creating the plan: They draft the strategic plan, including vision, mission, goals, and actionable steps.
Implementation support: They help your team execute the plan and monitor progress.

How much should I charge as a nonprofit consultant?

If you’re considering becoming a nonprofit strategic planning consultant, setting your fees can be challenging. Your rates should reflect your experience, the complexity of the projects you take on, and the value you bring to your clients.

Typical fee structures:
Hourly rates: Consultants often charge between $100 to $300 per hour. Highly experienced consultants may charge more.
Project-based fees: These can range from $5,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the project’s scope and duration.
Retainer agreements: Some consultants work on a retainer basis, charging a monthly fee for ongoing support.

Pro tip: Start by researching what other consultants in your area and field charge. Adjust your rates based on your unique skills and the specific needs of your clients.

By understanding these aspects, you can make informed decisions whether you’re hiring a consultant or setting your own consulting fees.


At Profit Leap, we believe in the power of strategic transformation to drive organizational growth. Our tailored solutions are designed to meet the unique needs of your nonprofit, ensuring you achieve your mission and create meaningful change.

Strategic planning is not just a one-time event but an ongoing journey. It requires continuous effort, dedication, and a willingness to learn and adapt. By partnering with us, you gain access to experienced consultants who specialize in nonprofit strategic planning. We help you navigate the complexities of the sector, align your stakeholders, and make informed decisions.

Our approach involves:

  • Facilitation and Consensus Building: We engage your team and stakeholders in a structured, inclusive process.
  • Neutral Facilitation: We provide an unbiased perspective, helping you avoid common pitfalls and group biases.
  • Strategic Decision Making: We guide you through making tough decisions, ensuring they align with your mission and goals.
  • Implementation Support: We don’t just help you plan; we support you in executing your strategy.

Consider the case of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. By engaging a strategic planning consultant, they were able to gather diverse stakeholder input, identify strategic directions, and successfully expand their community registry. This is just one example of how our strategic planning services can transform your nonprofit.

Ready to take the next step? Explore how Profit Leap can support your journey towards greater impact and sustainability. Together, we can create a brighter future for the communities you serve.

Reach out today to start your strategic transformation with Profit Leap.