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A How to Guide: Program Planning for Nonprofits

Updated: Aug 19



Designing a program can be fun, but also can be a daunting task. Having clear steps and objectives helps create a program that is impactful and beneficial to the community. This blog post is next in our series of breaking down some of the language utilized in our Modules so you can have a clear understanding when you start program planning in your organization. The stress that comes with the process of planning a program can be lessened with a needs assessment, program analysis, and SMART objectives.

Identify a Need


A Needs Assessment is a questionnaire that helps your organization understand your target population, the way the target population views their own needs, and how the target population’s outcomes differ from that of the already in place model. By conducting a Needs Assessment, an organization can craft a specific focus and identify any gaps in information. For example, let’s say a community’s specific category of need falls within Nutrition, knowing this information the organization can develop indicators that can be measured, how they will collect their data, and who they data will be collected from.

Identify a Problem


Once a need is identified, constructing a problem analysis helps convey why the need that has been identified should be addressed. Asking questions such as what is the origin of the problem, what social values are being threatened, and are there any gender, ethnic, or cultural considerations that need to be viewed. Going through the assessment and problem analysis, a problem statement can be framed utilizing specifics such as who is being affected, the location that is being affected, and why this is a problem. A possible problem statement, “Moderate to severe levels of food insecurity caused by climate change, changing farming techniques, and economic policies are pervasively affecting communities in rural Maharashtra causing missed school and work, poor mental and physical health outcomes, and economic decline”.

Identify Inputs and Outputs


Now that a problem statement has been generated and the population has been pinpointed it is time to find out if there are any best practices for addressing this need in similar contexts. Ask the population and staff about what has been done in the past and do some evidence-based research on what programs have proven successful. When this research is carried out, programs, and information that may be beneficial can be altered to fit your specific context and population. Creating a SMART objective plan helps focus on what is going to be achieved by implementing the program and processes both the inputs and outputs that are needed. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, Time-Bound, and is a simple tool to develop an Action Plan.

Planning a program doesn’t have to be a stressful task. Check out our Module on Program Design and utilize the available resources to easily and effectively conduct your program/project planning and design.


By Ola Adebayo - GIL Team Member

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