Strategic Planning vs. Business Planning: What’s the Difference?

In Strategic Planning by Shelli Bischoff

A few months ago, we sent an email to our nonprofit and agency friends and clients about business planning—a key process for organizations that want to increase their impact and reach their next level of success. In response, we were asked about the difference between a strategic plan and a business plan.  The distinction is important in helping you decide what kind of plan can best guide your organization, so we want to share it with you here.

Strategic Planning

The strategic plan helps an organization make direction-setting decisions based on context and solid analysis. Good planning should address the fundamental issues of strategic focus, desired impact, position, and imperatives…and then goals and strategy. To the extent that an organization makes solid strategic choices, the next step is asking, “How do we now ALIGN the rest of the organization to facilitate the accomplishment of strategic goals and stay focused?”  (I always tell groups that doing the strategic plan and then just basically going back to the office and doing the same things in the same way as before is a waste of time).

Business Planning

The business plan addresses the question of aligning your organization to achieve your goals. It says, if these are our direction, focus, position, and goals, what are the IMPLICATIONS for how we reach and engage our constituents?  What are the opportunities to reach new markets?  Do we have the right leadership, management, governance, structure, staffing, and systems as well as business model? How do we generate resources? What are the opportunities to refresh, update, or leverage how we do business given our strategic focus?

The business plan provides a comprehensive direction as to how you build your enterprise to be most effective and potent as a result of your strategic decisions. It’s really THE most important step after the strategic plan.

The business plan doesn’t have to be lengthy and complicated, it can be a simple outline that addresses the key points.  It also is a way to integrate and align your separate strategic plan, marketing plan, fundraising plan, and however many other plans your organization has collected over the years. The business plan is integrated, streamlined, and the most effective tool to help you…

  • Hone your strategic focus and goals
  • Pinpoint your desired outcomes and measures of success
  • Clarify your target markets and the value you bring to them
  • Identify the strategic partnerships that will bolster your success
  • Delineate the most effective functions of leadership and management
  • Align your business model and organizational infrastructure to best support your mission
  • Attract the resources you need to make a difference

Have more questions about business planning? Call or email anytime. I’m happy to have a conversation with you.