Your Nonprofit’s Future Is About Your Strengths

 At What Are You Really, Really Good?

You will build your organization’s future, including your income portfolio, most solidly on your organization’s best gifts. Seeing these gifts in action and their impact on others’ lives is often the fuel that motivates your best people and will help you move towards a great future. Finding and naming what you do best is an ongoing listening and thinking process. Customers, donors, grant or program evaluators, your gut feelings, and other data provide clues.

Here are some questions to ask your board, staff, and other stakeholders. When you listen to their answers, be open to the unexpected. Some of your organization’s gifts may be less visible to the people closest to work.

  • Pretend someone is deciding between giving another organization that serves the same customers a million dollars and us. These funds must be used for new programming. We deserve these funds because of our great strength in…
  • What activities of ours are the most fun?
  • When do we make significant connections with people?
  • Are there any activities that people would volunteer joyfully to expand?
  • What activities give those we serve the most “bang for the buck?”
  • What activities have the longest positive impact on the lives of those served?
  • If we suddenly stopped serving the community today, our customers, donors, and other organizations would really miss us because…

Sometimes, even after a bit of probing, the strengths and uniqueness of an organization are not clear. In this case, try focusing on your core programs or the ones that make you most energized. Or, perhaps it is time to go back a step and invest in some thinking about your organization’s mission and goals.

Other times you have too many strengths to organize, and the exercise provides confusion rather than clarity. In this case, try ranking your strengths or combining similar ones. Alternatively, contact someone you trust, who works with you and a competitor, learn how the organizations compare. Add this information to everything you have learned. If you are confused, put away the issue for a week or more and then re-look it with freshness. During your “vacation,” you will be able to discern new insights.

Whatever information-gathering approaches you use, conduct an honest assessment. The more clearly you identify your current strengths, the more accurate a map you can create to get to the outstanding future you seek.

Strength identification is a first step in developing your organization’s future -and an important one. Your organization’s unique attributes are the cornerstone to create your future and develop your income portfolio. Income follows mission. The mission is built from strengths.


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