Resource Library

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 […]


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, […]


March 27, 2012

If You’ve Seen One Good Board…

I have been asked numerous times by clients to describe what a “good board” looks like. I understand the point of the question – what is the right size, what are the right committees, etc. But asking what a board should look like misses the more important point, which is this: a good board is […]


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 […]


April 18, 2011

1,000 Donors?

I just heard part of an interview with Seth Godin, management trainer and author, in which he talks about the importance of an artist having 1,000 fans. He explains it this way. It is one thing for a musical artist to fill a theater with 10,000 fans for a given performance. But that in itself […]


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 […]


June 04, 2010

Best Practices: The Fallacy of “Plug and Play”

The secret to a good golf game is simple: watch the best players in the world, learn what they do, and simply apply those techniques to your own game. That will make you just as good as them, right? Of course not. There are too many other factors at play to make it that simple: […]


March 23, 2010

Why “Raising Awareness” of Your Organization is Not a Strategic Goal

It is a common topic of discussion when I help an organization develop a strategic plan: how to raise awareness of the organization.  The assumption is that if only more people knew about them, then…well, what then? The reality is that not everyone needs to know about your organization and the work that it does.  However, it […]


March 15, 2010

What is Strategy?

The title of this entry is taken from an article of the same name, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1996.  The article was written by Michael Porter (“we’re not worthy”) and is viewed as a classic in business circles.  I have returned to this article on numerous occasions and always come away […]


March 11, 2010

Why Nonprofit Strategic Planning Usually Fails

One of the great ironies surrounding my work as a nonprofit consultant is that I was one of those who had little use for strategic planning.  In fact, I hated it.  Like many of you, I sat through too many sessions where we were asked (forced?) to brainstorm about the future of our organization, then […]