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© 2017
Spitfire Strategies

About The Smart Chart
The Interactive Smart Chart is based on the Spitfire Strategies Smart Chart 3.0 – a planning tool that helps nonprofits make smart choices and develop high-impact communications strategies. This online version of the Smart Chart offers an interactive approach to the planning process. As you work your way through the Chart, you'll have several opportunities to evaluate your answers and ensure you are making the smartest choices. You can also stop and save your answers at any time, and come back and finish later. This allows you to finish the planning process in your own time – and gives you maximum flexibility so you can get input on your choices from staff, board members or other outside resources as needed.

At the end of the process, you will have a fully completed Smart Chart that links your organization's goals to the many strategic decisions necessary for a successful communications effort.

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What’s New?

For those already familiar with previous versions of the tool, here’s a snapshot of what’s different. On this site you will find Smart Chart 3.0 – an even more effective strategic communications tool that builds upon the original Smart Chart. If you follow all the steps – in order – you will finish with a solid communications strategy.

For big fans of the old Smart Chart, don’t panic. We made only slight modifications, primarily to reflect feedback from more than 500 trainings and workshops with nonprofit organizations and foundations for how to make this tool even more user-friendly and effective.

Other updates reflect the findings from our research on the Activation Point. In December 2006, the Communications Leadership Institute partnered with Spitfire Strategies to research the best practices of persuasion. Through focus groups, case study research, an extensive literature review, brainstorms with an expert panel, and a proprietary research tool called PowerGamesTM, we developed recommendations for the best strategies and approaches public interest groups can use to create change by getting the right people to take the right action at the right time. To access the full report, visit

Based on the Activation Point, we’ve updated the Smart Chart with a new section on audience readiness that will help you gauge the stage of persuasion you need to work through with your audience(s). We’ve simplified some sections of the tool to streamline your planning process. We’ve also added a section to help you plot your communications activities on a timeline and assign key tasks to the key players on your communications team. Finally, we’ve added a section on implementation and evaluation to help you test the rationale for your strategy, and set benchmarks to measure your progress as you put the strategy into action.

Smart Chart 3.0 can make your communications reach and impact even more effective. But despite the changes, we still want you to “think inside the box” and make the decisions in order.

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What people are saying about the Interactive Smart Chart:

Mark Dessauer, Communications Officer, Active Living by Design at the School of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill
The Smart Chart was the right tool at the right time in the right place. The Smart Chart went beyond our preconceived notions of communications planning to instead provide our community partnerships with a deeper understanding of the value of communications and strategic planning. Spitfire's consultants took the time to understand our logic models and the specific needs of each community. This preparation paid off when our community partnerships asked to use the Smart Chart to plan their work for the next year – not just their communication goals.

One of the most striking aspects of the Smart Chart is that it reframes your entire plan of action. The Smart Chart helps your organization to do the groundwork and planning that will benefit future activities. I was impressed how each decision and box within the Smart Chart established a foundation for our decisions. The Smart Chart helped our communities ask questions and find information that will make their overall efforts more successful.

The Smart Chart is not just a different process or way of looking at communications, but a practical and new tool that can be applied across all fields.

Monica Zimmer, Communications Director, Voices for America's Children
The Smart Chart has truly made our communications efforts more strategic. The Smart Chart demystifies the term "strategic" communication by outlining clear and logical steps that result in changed policies or behaviors.

I can't tell you how many times, I've referred to Smart Chart in my work as a communications director. Whenever someone suggests "let's do a press release," I always refer to the Smart Chart.

The Smart Chart has equipped me with the tools I need to develop communication plans that translate into positive actions. The Smart Chart gives me the confidence to ask lots of probing questions that invariably make our communications efforts more effective.

The Smart Chart has given me and my role as a communicator more credibility.

Erin Hall, Project Manager, Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Partnership
As someone with no formal communications background and a job that demands highly effective communication skills with many different audiences, I rely on the Smart Chart all the time. It reminds me to make critical decisions about what I am trying to accomplish and who precisely my audience is. Most importantly, it keeps me from jumping to tactics before I know what my message is.

The Smart Chart completely shifted my thinking about how I prepare for meetings and how I do presentations. Now I think, "who are the critical decision-makers in the room and what do I need to do to influence them?"

Celeste Newcomb, Executive Director, Centre Volunteers in Medicine
Using the smart chart as a guide to our communication planning helped us create a solid development plan.
With the help of the Smart Chart, we were able to capitalize on what we were good at, and what we needed to do better. It made it very clear for us, our board members and supporters.

We used the Smart Chart to develop a solid communications plan for our non-profit organization. It helped us at the macro level to understand our goals, and then at the micro level in terms of what it would take to reach those specific goals. Spitfire Strategies gave us the tools and the assistance we needed to bring in donations in a tight market.

Eric Brown, Communications Director, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The Smart Chart has been an invaluable tool for literally dozens of our grantees across the Foundation's programs. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the light bulbs come on as our grantees saw their communications strategy become crystal clear during a Smart Chart training. There's no question in my mind that our grantees have become much more effective in their work thanks to the Smart Chart.

John Bare, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Evaluation, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
I like the Smart Chart because it holds our feet to the fire on evaluation while we're building communications strategies.

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