5 Tips for Being a Better Nonprofit Strategist
1: Frame strategy before planning
Think about diet “strategies.” There are low fat, low carbohydrate, high protein, paleo, plant-based and countless other strategies for losing weight. While research supports all of them, each boils down to
Sure, you can create a meal plan using any one of these diets strategies. The plan might define precisely what you will eat each and every day. And the plan may be very helpful in staying on a strategic course.
But, you don’t need a meal plan to be successful on any one of these diets. You just need to follow the core decision-making rules. On a low carb diet, you restrict the intake of carbohydrates. When you walk into
2: Cast off the shackles of resource constraints
Remember: big money flows to big ideas. Funds trickle in to those organizations that do not offer a credible strategy to impact.
3: Do your homework and avoid reinventing the wheel
This can start simply. Just make a call to your peer in another nonprofit and start a conversation.
4: Imagine boldly
Scenario analysis will help you and your team think creatively about strategy. In developing each scenario, try exploring critical questions like:
- How might we expand our geographic reach of existing programs?
- What programs might be added, scaled up, or scaled back?
- What would your nonprofit do if its resources were doubled each year for the next five years? Declined by 25% next year?
Put aside asking whether your organization should pursue a particular scenario. That’s a discussion for later. In scenario analysis, make the case for each scenario.
5: Know thyself
Most organizations – even those who have never been through a strategic planning process – have a dominant, active strategy. And too often, the dominant strategy is different from what a nonprofit’s executives or board members articulate.
Follow the money to identify the dominant strategy in your organization. Look back 3-5 years. What’s getting more funding, in total dollar terms and as a percentage of total spending? Then sit back. Look at the trends. You should avoid the impulse to justify the spending pattern. Instead, ask, “if these trends continue, where do they take us?”