Powering Your Mission

Strategic Planning | Implementing
the right blend of practice and theory.

Nonprofit Strategy:

A Phase-Based Approach to Relevance, Impact, and Sustainability

Nonprofit Strategy book cover

The need for anchoring is never greater than during times of turmoil and unpredictability. For nonprofits, these conditions are becoming the norm. The key to maintaining relevance, impact, and sustainability is knowing the right questions to ask and when to ask them.

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Strategic planning is so…last century. Truth is, the emphasis on strategic planning is still with us despite the admonition from consultants, academics, and practitioners that things move much too quickly and are much too unpredictable to rely on any sort of established plan. In its place, we should all think of ourselves as strategists, whose main responsibility to our organizations is to be engaged in continuous strategic thinking. Being strategic is better than having a strategic plan any and every day of the week.

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Strategic thinking for nonprofits happens from the inside out. Before we look forward to where we need to go, we should look in other directions. First, we look backward in search of the trends and patterns of decisions that help explain how we got to where we are today. Second, we look inward to identify those enduring strengths and values that have remained constant throughout our history. Then we look forward in search of that space that allows us to create the greatest mission impact in the most sustainable manner.

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The key to effective strategic thinking is knowing what questions to ask. Where an organization is in its evolution will determine what the right questions are. The goal of mission impact and viability remain constant throughout the lifespan of a nonprofit. On the other hand, nonprofits pass through specific strategic phases as they mature. Asking a startup about the lessons learned from its history is like asking a third-grader to reflect on the significance of math class to his or her life aspirations. Right question, wrong time.

Mike Stone

About your author

Michael E. Stone, Ph.D., is the founder and lead consultant for Stone Consulting, an organization dedicated to guiding nonprofits on strategy development, facilitation, and conflict mediation services. With over 20 years of working and serving 150-plus clients, Michael has written and taught numerous undergraduate courses in nonprofit management. In 2017, he published his first book, “From the Inside Out: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Meaningful Strategy.”

Retarget Your Strategy Today

Nonprofit Strategy is the right blend of practice and theory. It is down-to-earth DIY guide for nonprofits conducting their own planning processes. This book will be a resource for funders seeking strategic context for grantmaking investments and programmatic direction.


Book Excerpts

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Strategic Positioning For Nonprofits

From a strategic standpoint, the essential (and existential) challenges facing all nonprofits are relevance, impact, and sustainability. Relevance means that the mission of the nonprofit is aimed at some form of social good that is considered to be of value to people outside the organization. Demonstrating impact requires that the nonprofit operate under a clearly articulated theory of change and is able to substantiate some form and degree of change.

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Impact: How Will You Make A Difference?

This is the big picture thinking about how the planned activities will contribute to the intended impact. Second, the nonprofit must be able to substantiate some form and degree of change that is tied to its program activities... The intended purpose of a logic model is aimed exactly at these two requirements: it makes explicit how a nonprofit believes it can best use its resources to bring about mission impact; and it identifies the information the nonprofit will gather to substantiate the desired change.

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Affirming The Strategic Position

Resilience has been defined as the ability to let go and hang on simultaneously. In the vernacular of strategy, I refer to the resiliency approach to strategy as “affirm and tweak”. What is affirmed are the core elements of your organization as they have become embedded over time. What is tweaked in a Mature strategy is the programmatic expression of that core. Said another way, you let go of the things that get in the way of you being a better version of who you are as an organization.

From the inside out book cover

Other Books Written By Michael Stone

From The Inside Out

Nonprofit strategy is about the journey as much as it is about the destination. This book is your guide for the journey.

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