Articles

Strategy

August 29, 2017

Strategy Made Simple

There is a certain elegance in the simple presentation of a complex idea. From science, we know that E equals MC squared. And from the Old Testament were are instructed to love kindness, seek justice, and walk humbly. Easy to understand in both cases, but equally profound in their implications. When it comes to strategic planning, I doubt […]

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August 01, 2017

The Most Misunderstood Word in the Nonprofit Sector

Okay, I’ll spare you the drama. The word is STRATEGY. Too many nonprofit boards and executives do not know what it is, why it matters, or how it works in the nonprofit sector. Consequently, the terms strategy, along with its adjective cousin strategic, lack the fixed meaning that prevents them from being employed as a […]

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August 07, 2016

Vulnerability: A Deeper Dive Into the Nonprofit Funding Challenge

Sustainability is understood generally as a measure of the ability of an organization to create mission impact without depleting its human and financial resources. As noted by Masaoka and her colleagues, sustainability is not a destination, but an orientation. In other words, there is no finish line in the journey toward financial viability. To appreciate […]

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June 28, 2016

“I Don’t Know Quite How to Say This”: The Language of Strategy

Words matter. More specifically, the meaning that we attach to words matter. The psychologist Lev Vygotsky, in a seminal work in the area of cognitive science, first introduced the idea that language – the words we use to communicate – shapes the form and scope of our internal thoughts. While there have been variations on […]

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February 20, 2015

How Nonprofit Strategy is Different

Nonprofits are bombarded with books (and consultants!) presenting a range of approaches to strategy development, many of them in the form of boilerplate templates imported from the for-profit sector. But lest we throw out the baby with the bathwater, let’s acknowledge the value to nonprofits of the traditional for-profit approaches to strategy. For-profit strategy reminds […]

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April 17, 2013

Beyond the Obvious: What a “Funding Problem” May Reveal about a Nonprofit

Note: This article was published on the CausePlanet website on March 31, 2013. Ask any nonprofit board member or executive director what poses the greatest challenge to their organization and you are likely to hear this: “our greatest challenge is lack of adequate funding.” While they may not be able to offer a complex analysis […]

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November 07, 2012

Keeping Strategy Alive: The Three Simple Questions

Why is it that, despite our best intentions, the work that goes in to the development of a strategic plan does not pay off in the end? By “not paying off,” I mean the process of strategy development does not evolve into a mindset of ongoing strategic thinking. Why not? The answer is both simple […]

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October 01, 2012

Lions, Zebras, and the Law of the Jungle: How Markets Matter to Nonprofits

The law of survival in the jungle is simple: you don’t have to be faster than the lion, just one step faster than the slowest zebra. The mantra of the under-achiever? To the contrary, this is the wisdom of a creature that has figured out what game it is playing – what the threats are, […]

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October 18, 2011

Is Your Strategy Sound?

A few years ago I discovered a framework for evaluating foundation strategy (developed by Peter Frumpkin) that draws attention to three critical features of strategy: its soundness, the quality of its implementation, and the results it produces. The framework has proven to be immensely helpful to me as I work with foundations and has transferred […]

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March 17, 2011

Getting to “No”: The Three Cs of Strategic Consideration

The essence of strategy is deciding what not to do. This idea was presented by Michael Porter in the 1996 Harvard Business Review article titled, “What is Strategy,” and has proven to be prescient in light of the current strain on the core business models of many nonprofits. Nonprofits have plenty of reasons to say […]

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Need Additional Assistance?

If you are interested in going deeper into your nonprofit strategy or if you wish to review your organizational strategy more broadly, click the link below to schedule a 30-minute phone or zoom consultation with Mike Stone.

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