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:

  • Your program model.
  • The long version of your mission statement.
  • Your annual work plans.
  • Your business plan.
  • Some of each.

Let’s start with what organizational strategy is. Simply, strategy is about how you position your organization to create the greatest mission impact in the most sustainable manner. A strategic position is the result of three considerations:

  • What you will – and won’t – do, for whom, and to what end.
  • How you relate to others in your domain.
  • How you will get the funding to support your work.

The resulting strategic positionprovides the foundation for all program and resource decisions. Said another way, a strategic position is the means by which you enact your organizational mission. To illustrate this relationship of mission to strategy, consider this example:

“Our mission is to create better futures for children and youth.”

This is a concise description of why your organization exists at all. Whereas mission provides the why, strategy describes the how by providing focus and boundaries. Think of the swimming pool as your mission and strategy as the lane within which you have chosen to swim. For example:

“We provide comprehensive services to youth referred by DCS and juvenile court and run an on-site alternative school for the community. We are funded primarily through government contracts and tuition.”

In just thirty words (count ‘em), I was able to animate the mission statement by conveying what we do (comprehensive services); where we fit within our domain (referral partnerships with government entities); and how we fund our work (contracts and user fees).

Is there more to talk about beyond the 30-word description of your strategy? Of course, there is. But the rest is elaboration. The core strategy should, literally, speak for itself.

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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