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Organizational planning is a process that defines a nonprofit’s overall direction, activities and strategies to fulfill its mission. Nonprofits have a duty to engage in sound planning to define a clear vision for the future. In order to best position organizations to achieve their goals, nonprofit planning should include input from constituents and should be intentional and ongoing.

Infrastructure Checklist


Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
All necessary/appropriate insurance (i.e., D&O, general liability, etc.) US, NE, IA
Mission statement (990) US

Workers’ compensation insurance (Neb. Rev. Stat. §§48-101 through 48-118.05; Iowa Code §87.1, §87.14A) NE, IA

  • Check your state law—the number of employees may impact your requirement to provide.


Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Advocacy plan
Comprehensive organizational plan—including operations, program strategies, fundraising, financial management/budgeting procedures, communications, risk/crisis management
Data backup & recovery plan
Disaster recovery plan
Executive/leadership transition plan
Fund development plan (diversification of funds)
Marketing & communication plan
Operational or business plan
Organizational assessment/environmental scan
Periodic review of mission, vision, values
Risk & disaster management systems
Strategic plan
Sustainability plan
Technology plan
Values statement
Mission statement

Practices Assessment


No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have a clearly defined, written mission statement that guides the overall aims and activities of our organization and is linked to our values and vision for the future. US
We have a clear, motivating vision statement about the organization’s future that reflects a world enhanced by the accomplishment of our mission.
We have a values statement that reflects our core beliefs and principles and drives the work we do.
The board periodically reviews our mission, vision and values to consider societal and community changes.
Our board and staff can and do articulate a shared vision for the organization.

Stakeholder Input & Responsiveness

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
When planning activities, our organization is responsive to community needs and solicits input from a variety of sources with varying perspectives: staff, board members, funders and other constituents.
We openly communicate with counterparts in our field to share best practices, ensure effective resource allocation, and prevent duplication of services.

Strategic Plan

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We create a written strategic plan every three to five years.
The strategic plan reflects the results of an environmental assessment that includes information on strengths/challenges the organization faces, as well as opportunities for, and perceived threats to mission achievement.
The plan includes clearly defined, measurable goals and objectives that are set by the organization to achieve our mission.

Operational Plan

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We create a written operational plan every year which aligns with the strategic plan and specifies how organizational activities will be implemented.
The plan clearly defines specific operational, program, financial, fundraising, communication, personnel and evaluation activities; delineates timelines; and assigns specific responsibility for implementation.
The plan clearly identifies goals and performance measurements.
The plan is tied to an approved budget.
The plan provides a framework for regular progress reports and is reviewed and updated regularly by staff and board members.

Risk & Crisis Management

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have all necessary/appropriate insurance (i.e., general liability, property, directors and officers, etc.) to protect our organization, employees, volunteers and board members. US, NE, IA
We have workers’ compensation insurance. NE, IA
We have a risk management plan that protects the organization’s assets—its property, financial and human resources, documents, programmatic content and material.
We work with our board to monitor the risk management plan on a regular basis and update it as new risks are identified or as circumstances change.
Our bylaws include board liability and indemnification language that clearly define the circumstances under which the organization will indemnify its directors, officers, volunteers and employees against claims arising from the performance of their duties.
We have a crisis communication plan.
We have a data backup and recovery plan.
We have a fund development (diversification of funds) plan.
We have a leadership/executive transition plan.
We have an advocacy plan.

Resources & Sample Documents Emergency Preparedness

Walking the Talk

  • Make the question, “why is our mission important?” a standard component of board, staff and volunteer interviews and orientation; revisit the mission at meetings to discuss why it continues to be important and ask for personal reflections on why the organization’s mission is relevant to the community; emphasize that “no one else will support us if we can’t support ourselves.”
  • Include your mission statement on all written correspondence with board: at top of meeting minutes, on organization letterhead, and as the cover to the board binder/manual. Prominently display the mission at each board meeting (try printing it on the back of business cards and name placards, or making laminated cards that you can lay at each place on the table during board and committee meetings).
  • Engage a staff member/consultant to research related programs, studies, and common practices. If research is not available, consider applying for a grant that will support a research project, or partner with a local college/university to initiate relevant research.
  • Assign staff (or engage a consultant or volunteer) to conduct an environmental scan by researching programs that focus on similar mission or emphasis areas. Identify possible competition, collaboration, and innovative practices that may strengthen your program. This is recommended as an annual, ongoing activity (and should be considered before implementing a major new program or strategy), but should be conducted every three years at a minimum.
  • Regularly monitor census data and other statistics related to community needs to identify trends and provide documentation for funders.
  • Allocate a portion of at least one meeting per year to discuss the needs and demographics of target population, and how the organization can continue to meet those needs within the context of its mission. This conversation should also be a part of all new board member orientations.
  • Engage a consultant, or consider one of many quality resources for self-directed planning to establish a focused strategy for the organization which guides planning. All components of the plan should have direct relevance to mission achievement.
  • Engage a sub-committee of the board to develop a plan for engaging target constituencies through involvement on the board, participation in programs, and formal evaluation and feedback processes. Avoid token representation and ensure meaningful participation. Discuss relationship development at regular board meetings.
  • Board members should be cognizant of the impact of cultural differences and perspectives in relation to defining community need and delivering programs. A variety of perspectives should be considered before a decision is made that will impact programming and customer service. Employees and volunteers should be able to effectively relate to and work effectively within the target population. Cultural values and norms must be considered to ensure acceptance and utilization of services by constituents.
  • Consider relation to mission before deciding to implement any new project or program. Discuss the cost-benefit ratio in relation to likelihood of advancing toward mission achievement. Prioritize the programs with a higher likelihood of mission impact and reduce or eliminate low-priority programs.
  • Establish a plan to respond to a possible decrease in funding. Prioritize positions and functions, prioritize services, programs and projects and identify a list of potential new funding sources that may be pursued. Consider questions such as: In the event of layoffs, which positions will be targeted? Can any projects be put on hold? Can any services be provided by another organization? Are there individuals, civic groups, foundations or corporations that may support us? Can we adapt any programs to a fee-for-service model?
  • Establish an organizational culture where it’s OK to say “no” to an opportunity that does not impact your mission.
  • Consider the capacity of staff before implementing a new project/program. Ensure that funding is available to adequately staff and support the activity: if new staff cannot be added, what projects or programs can be down-sized or eliminated to free-up other staff time?
  • Consider sustainability beyond initial (perhaps grant-based) funding for a new program. What other funding, including earned income, might be available?