Research is key to your nonprofit strategic plan. You don’t need a degree in academic research. You also don’t need to spend years researching before you can write up your strategic plan. But you do need to take time to dig a bit deeper into some topics. And you do need to go beyond your usual routine.

Without research it’ll be ‘same old’

I see a lot of nonprofits that keep doing the same things. Without looking afresh at what the community or cause they serve needs at that point in time. But if you work with your community every day, you’ll likely miss some important developments. (Think of how some changes in your children or yourself are more noticeable to someone who sees them or you less often.) 

Empathy map

An empathy map for all different groups you serve helps you look at your people differently by asking questions you don’t usually think about. This will give you a fresh outlook on your community, your stakeholders, your donors, etc.

Relevance for your nonprofit strategic plan

With the empathy map you’ll see your community members and donors, for instance, as part of a context in which they operate and live. You’ll not just look at the point where you interact with them. But you’ll also try to find out what else is going on for them.

With a PESTLE analysis you can see what developments are affecting them and how. And that can give you new ideas for activities and programmes to be of better service to your community.



Dig deep

The better you know your community, the better you’ll be able to design programmes that meet their needs and desires. And the better you’ll be able to communicate with them, using the right platforms, content types and words that speak to them. The more you’re able to reach your community effectively and deliver what they need – the more impact you’ll make.

Take your time for your research

So it’s important to take time to catch up on trends and developments, to observe your community members, and to maybe ask them a few questions. To check the feedback you’ve gotten on previous programmes. And to look at comments on your social media platforms. Talk to experts in different fields to learn about their projections for the near future.

Use all this to think creatively about what programmes you can offer for your community that are relevant in that future context.

But I am in a hurry

I know most of us nonprofits are constantly running for deadlines. But this is really something that’s worth taking a moment for. Just think about those organisations and companies that were prepared for a pandemic or the fast developments in AI. And think about those of us who were and are overwhelmed by these developments. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable if you were ready to help your community navigate and use these new circumstances confidently?


You don’t need to become a qualified futurologist. And no, even they may not be able to predict what’s going to happen. But the basis is not the future. It’s knowing your people inside and out, and knowing what’s important to them and what’s hard. That’s what will help you identify trends that might impact your people the most. And if you can have a sense of those even just a little in advance, it will help you design programmes that can really help your people move forward even in a new situation.

How I can help

Check out my free mini course: Build a Solid Base for your nonprofit.

You can join my new group coaching programme Strategic Planning for nonprofits if you want to have my help in developing a strategic plan for your nonprofit. We’ll take 12 weeks to go through 12 steps of visioning, researching & analysing and planning, so you’ll be READY for 2024!

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into my nonprofit support community and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free nonprofit support community

You can join my free nonprofit support community on the Heartbeat platform here. This group is a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.

You can visit the community via a browser or via an app. Here is the link to download the Heartbeat chat app in the Google Play store.

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