The purpose of this study is to analyze how strategic planning is used as critical success factors (CSF’s) in not-for-profit (NFP) organizations. This was because many nonprofits had to innovate their operations owing to the global fiscal crises, the continuing international economic instability, natural disasters or the increasing man-made worldwide terrorism. Additionally, the objective is to identify what successful nonprofit organizations actually do to remain effective at the national association level of analysis.
A constructivist research design ideology is applied (in contrast to the customary positivist philosophy to collect quantitative). The literature is critically reviewed to identify NFP CSF’s and terms such as capacity building. NFP institutions are theoretically sampled using US-based retrospective data to identify practitioner CSF activities. Applying a constructivist research design ideology, the theoretical CSF’s from the literature review are compared to practitioner activities. Representatives of NFP organizations are invited to participate in a strategic planning exercise to identify the most important CSF’s from the literature and practice that would be needed in the future.
Seven of the nine United Nations NFP capacity building CSF’s are similar to NFP nine practitioner best practices. In comparison to the general literature, NFP practitioners applied leadership, strategic planning, innovation, documented procedures/training, human/technology resource management, financial management, accountability practices, ethical standards with professional communications policies, collaborative fundraising and marketing initiatives along with performance success evaluations.
The sample was drawn theoretically from 44 nonprofit state-centered institutions in the USA. Although statistically the results pertain strictly to US-based nonprofits, the principles should generalize to other countries as revealed by the similarity with United Nations innovation and strategic planning recommendations.
The authors applied a strategic planning exercise with the 44 participants at their recommendations to prioritize the CSF’s. The result was an innovative SWOT-TOWS diagram that summarized how the nine CSF’s were prioritized and grouped into the three categories of market performance, ethical responsibility and human resources.
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