Tips for Program Planning

Now that we have examined how the vision, mission, and goals guide an organization, we will get more specific by talking about tips for program planning.


Before implementing a new program or revising an existing one, it is imperative to plan how it will be executed. Though the process may seem daunting, taking the following steps will foster an organization that sees the big picture and delivers results.

Sometimes it feels necessary to jump right in with program services even when aspects of the program still feel undefined; however, taking a step back to look at the bigger picture will help connect all the moving pieces!

Click on the links below to view more information on the steps of planning:


Steps of Planning

Identify the Need

What is the compelling issue that the program will address, and how does it relate to the overall mission of the organization? Who else in the community is working to address this need, and what is it about the new or revised program that sets it apart or makes it compelling in the community or larger market that it will serve?

Define the Scope of Work (SOW)

A defined SOW helps the program staff and organizational leadership understand what the program aims to achieve and in what time period.

Stakeholder Analysis

This type of analysis is especially useful when implementing services that require community support or partnerships. It can help the program planners understand their allies, neutral parties, and opponents in order to decide the most feasible route to accomplish their goals.

Needs/Resources Assessment

Conducting or accessing an existing community needs/resource assessment enables program planners to identify the context in which they operate and the resources they must leverage to accomplish their goals. This step is especially important when providing community services or working with external partners. Program leaders should also conduct an internal assessment that analyzes the project’s Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). Review Module 1 - Preparing for Program Evaluation.

Resource Development Plan

Once the resources needed to accomplish the SOW have been identified, a plan for securing resources should be created. If resources exist currently in the budget to begin the program, how will the program be sustained in the future? How will you attract the funding and additional resources to support achieving the goal and impact? Creating a written development plan that includes diversification of how resources will be secured is an important next step before moving further. During resource development, you may also want to begin to put together your yearly and total project budget. Will funds be spent evenly in all years of the project? Are there any unanticipated costs you might allot funds for? A budget is an essential document for a successful project.

Logic Model

Developing a logic model is an essential step in both the planning and monitoring processes. How will you know if your program has achieved success? First, you need to identify the intended outcomes or impacts. Creating and understanding your program’s logic model is one of the first steps in measuring success and creating accountability. Review Module 2 - Planning for Program Evaluation. Use our interactive logic model builder.

Timeline/Project Schedule

A timeline or project schedule builds on both the SOW and the logic model. It should outline the activities or tasks required, the expected outcomes, the dates of accomplishment, and who is responsible for execution. There are some specific examples of project schedules such as a GANTT chart or a Network approach. Click here to learn more about GANTT charts and get instructions on creating a chart. A well-constructed timeline links the activities and deliverables directly to the goals and objectives of the program. Below is a basic example of a project timeline.

Download a printable PDF version of the project timeline.

Staffing Plan

Do you have all the staff you need? Will you be hiring new staff? What additional skills will staff need to execute the project, and how will staff be trained? Will you be hiring an external evaluator or training current staff to conduct evaluation activities? Based on your budget, a staffing plan will help you answer these questions so your program is properly and efficiently staffed and your program can be implemented strategically. Be realistic in the development of the staffing plan. A common mistake many organizations make is to integrate a new full-time program into the existing full-time responsibilities of staff without planning how time will need to be adjusted so staff are not overburdened and the project activities are achievable with the staff available.

Job Descriptions/Roles and Responsibilities

Clearly written job descriptions, including roles and responsibilities, for employees are essential not only in the recruitment and hiring process but also for day-to-day staff operations. Clear expectations regarding performance reduce misunderstandings regarding duties and increase productivity. In addition, team or department job descriptions help the program administrators and employees understand how their work fits together, their common goals, and how they serve the larger mission of the organization.

Organizational Policies & Procedures

While a program under the umbrella of a larger organization often develops its own subset of policies and procedures to guide the program operations, these are designed in the context of the larger organization’s governance and policy structure. All staff, volunteers, and members of the Board of Directors (as applicable) need to have a clear understanding of how the overarching organization is governed, including its policies and procedures.