Resource Library

January 04, 2024

For Nonprofits, Being Self-Aware is More Important than Being Different

A staple of traditional strategic planning is the notion of differentiation. In order to be successful, the thinking goes, you must emphasize those aspects of your mission and work that separate you from others doing similar work. Not only that, those differences must be distinctive to your organization. That is, true differentiation requires that your […]


August 23, 2023

Splitting the Atom? The Nature of Strategy and Governance

Some things just seem to go together naturally. Peanut butter and jelly; chips and guacamole; Taylor Swift and breakup songs. When two things are complementary by nature, pulling them apart feels like an affront to the way things are supposed to be. Such is the case with nonprofit strategy and board governance. While peanut butter […]


August 02, 2023

What Are You Talking About? Strategy in 30 Words

Consider this counsel from Allen Proctor, author of the book, More Than Just Money: “If you can’t summarize your organization’s strategy in 30 words or less, then it probably isn’t a strategy.” If it’s not strategy that you are describing, then what is it? Chances are, it is one of the following: Let’s start with […]


January 16, 2023

Why Staying ON Mission May Not Keep You IN Your Lane

One of the challenges in strategy development is that there are no fixed definitions of the fundamental concepts of strategy. Consequently, key terms are used interchangeably (or worse, randomly), thereby draining them of their value in shaping strategic thinking. For the purposes of this article, let’s agree on a vocabulary for the fundamental elements of […]


November 14, 2022

A Better Mousetrap? How About Better Strategy!

Build a better mousetrap, the saying goes, and the world will beat a path to your door. Perhaps, if what the world needs is to catch mice. But the best mousetrap in the world is of no value if what the world needs is a better way to trap bears. We have a mousetrap problem […]


February 20, 2022

Let’s Get Philosophical…About Strategy

If the title of this article took you back to Olivia Newton John getting physical in her leggings and head band…well, that is on you. What I am offering is something a little deeper for you to consider. To paraphrase the philosopher-theologian Soren Kierkegaard, life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards. […]


January 11, 2022

Stating the Obvious is Not Strategic

Recently, I read a strategic plan from a nonprofit that was built around the following four strategic imperatives: Increase awareness of your organization through a comprehensive marketing plan. Ensure fiscal sustainability by diversifying revenue sources. Strengthen community and partner relationships. Enhance impact by expanding the range of services offered. My question to the nonprofit – […]


January 10, 2024

Preparing for the Unpredictable: What Does That Even Mean?

Recently, I shared my perspective on the role of nonprofit strategy with this quote: “Strategy is about preparing for the things you can’t predict, not mapping the steps toward the things you hope will happen.” The purpose of this article is to expound upon that idea and show what this means for your nonprofit. I […]


September 23, 2023

From A to Z: Finding Your Place on the Impact Continuum

Life unfolds along one cosmic continuum, spanning birth (point A) and death (point Z). Of course, no two people will experience this continuum in exactly the same way. Some will find it relatively easy to live a fulfilling and meaningful life while others will face barriers that may dim not just their aspirations, but the […]


November 29, 2022

“You Are Here…For Now”: The Changing Focus of Nonprofit Strategy

Michael E. Stone, Ph.D., Stone Consulting (This article is based on the author’s latest book, “Nonprofit Strategy: A Phase-Based Approach to Relevance, Impact, and Sustainability”). There is one lesson about nonprofit strategy that stands above all others: there is no there. That is, there is not a point at which a nonprofit can say, “we […]


September 09, 2022

Commitment: The Magic Sauce in Conflict Resolution

Every parent knows that what can happen when you send young children to their room to “work it out.” If they feel that the conflict prevents them from getting something they really want, they are likely to work toward a resolution (e.g., “we’re not going unless you can agree on a movie”). However, if they […]


July 13, 2022

Are We as SMART as We Think We Are?

Who doesn’t like a pithy mnemonic to help remember important concepts? The kiss principle reminds us that simple is always better than complicated, while the fictitious Roy G. Biv helps us remember the colors of the light spectrum. One enduring mnemonic in my domain as a nonprofit strategist is the SMART goal. Although there is […]