Too many nonprofit leaders undertake the strategy planning process in response to an authority, perhaps a donor insisting on it. To these leaders, developing and having a strategy is an entry ticket. It’s required paperwork to retrieve, as requested. For these leaders, strategy becomes a means to check another box on an already lengthy to-do list. This is too bad. Why? Because the strategy is the key that differentiates so-so nonprofits from stars.
Creating and using a good strategy is like owning top-of-the-line GPS equipment. A strategy is like the rope a free diver follows in murky waters. In short, your strategy is a lifeline that leads you to your goals. Does your strategy provide you with these benefits? Take the assessment below to find out. I developed it after working with hundreds of nonprofits on strategy over the last two decades. Check the boxes where your current strategy passes muster, and then total your score.
Karen’s Strategy Test
__ 1. Excited. Does the strategy excite you and your leadership? You don’t hear the word “excitement” very often in connection with strategy, but after a good strategy session, participants are tired (they thought hard) and excited.
__ 2. Unique. Does your strategy build on your organization’s skills and gifts? Is it you? Can anyone else fulfill this strategy as well as you? A strategy never copies. It creates. It advances from your distinct perspective.
__ 3. Respected. Your strategy is based on a thoughtful analysis of possibilities. You created it after exploring alternatives. You choose not to select several worthy alternatives. Although everyone may or may not agree with the final strategy, the reasonable embrace the logic of the choice, express respect for the decision process and agree that the strategy represents a reasonable approach. Does your strategy have the respect of those who prefer other options?
__ 4. Sacred Essentials. Does your strategy use build from your sacred essentials? Sacred essentials are the “must do” actions in your work that create the majority of the results. Sacred essentials can be shouted as the elevator closes between you and your donor, “We focus on the education of young mothers.”
__ 5. Clarity. Excellent strategy offers direction, not dust. It is busy poking you with the directives useful for decisions. Which donors might we contact? The ones excited about the strategy. What should I do next? The option is most consistent with the strategy. When you consult your strategy, does it provide answers?
__ 6. Grounded. If you ask Google Maps for walking directions to London from North America, you get an untenable itinerary that includes a kayak ride across the Atlantic. This kind of strategy is not a GPS-enabled strategy; it’s a fantasy. Many strategic plans contain similar advice, such as “Raise the money.” Can you trace a logical, realistic path to your goal?
__ 7. Reflect Your Now. Every night, you leave your office and you arrive home on your own path. No one else takes the same journey. No one else starts exactly from where you start to reach your destination.
__ 8. Endpoint. Worthwhile strategies focus on endpoints and flex for detours and shortcuts. Does your strategy continue to provide guidance ahead even when specific details change?
7 and 8 Total: Congratulations, your strategy is better than a top-of-the-line GPS! Contact me to renew and to maximize its use.
5 or 6 Total: Your strategy is wobbly; we can much more useful.
4 or less Total: Ouch. If anyone asks if you have a strategy, say yes. Hope they don’t ask for a copy. Better yet, tell them that you are upgrading it. Your nonprofit toolbox is missing a hammer and measuring tape.