How to Develop a Strategy for Your Non-Profit or Social Enterprise (Part 2)

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This is part 2 of the first step of the Leverage Impact Program (LIP). Last week we kicked off the program with the introduction to the first step of the program which is Strategy Development. In that article, we covered the meaning of strategy, the key requirement of strategy development and how to set strategic goals and objectives for non-profits and social enterprises.

If you are just joining us and haven’t read that article yet, you should do so before continuing with this one so that we can both be on the same page. Click here to read it now!

The importance of Strategy

The importance of strategy is as simple as asking yourself; “why is it important to know your way to work in the morning?” As casual as this may sound, this simple analogy underscores the very essence of strategy. I mean how do you get to a place without having a direction on how to get there?

If you don’t try to first identify how you want to get to a particular destination, how would you even tell whether you are on the right part or not? Strategy is the road map that gives your actions the needed direction to follow in order to arrive at your desired destination. Without it, you and everyone else in that organization are lost. It is as simple as that.

You must understand that your organization is made up of people and not only yourself. These people are hired to do particular sets of work for your non-profit or social enterprise. Strategy is what gives everyone a direction of what to do in order to achieve the organization’s purpose and mission. If it is missing, everyone would be doing what they think is best for the organization.
In other words, strategy is what creates alignment for the entire organization to unify their efforts in achieving the purpose and mission of the organization. Strategy creates harmony of purpose and actions in your organizations day-to-day operations.

Who is responsible for developing strategy?

Strategy development is the collective efforts of everyone in the organization but led by the CEO or the board. The keyword here is “Led”, strategy is not done by the CEO or the board but led by them. This is the ideal process, the top decision makers of the organization are responsible for leading the entire organization in the strategy development process. They are not meant to develop a strategy and pass it down to the entire organization, they are to involve the organization in the process of developing a strategy because they need the input of everyone in the organization.

The CEO or the board of the organization is responsible for leading the entire organization to achieve its mission. But this leadership shouldn’t be based on what they feel but should be drawn from the insights they gather from the entire organization. They need insight from the people that interact with the target audience on the field and the people that carry out day-to-day operations.

That’s why you need a process that will allow top management to have access to the insights gained by these different people in the organization. Without these insights, the strategy they will end up developing will be incomplete and ineffective. Why? Because strategy development is based on insights from the market, operations, finance and every other departments of an organization.

You need to learn from all their experiences as they go about their activities daily and understand the pain points, challenges and opportunities. If the top management doesn’t involve the entire organization, these valuable insights will be missing from your strategy. When they are made available to you, then you can evaluate with your board and come up with how best to move the organization forward.

In other words, strategy cannot be developed in isolation. The top management cannot just come up with a strategy without first drawing insights on the current realities of the organization from the people in the trenches doing the everyday work. And because you can’t have everyone in the organization gathered in a room to discuss strategy, top management must create a process through which these insights must be gathered from everyone in the organization.

This feedback process is what will guide their strategy development. It is the recipe they need to cook the strategy for the organization. Feedback or insights from their people are the raw materials top management cannot afford to live without in any organization. They help you stay in touch with reality and make informed decisions based on those realities evaluated.

What if my non-profit/social enterprise is just kicking off and I don’t have the resources of an existing team yet from whom I can gather feedback or insights to develop a strategy?

This is dependent on the nature of the impact you want to make or the nature of the cause you are fighting. So even if you don’t have the staff or the experiences of interacting with the target audience, because you are just new, there are secondary data you can work with. They are organizations that are doing similar things even though not exactly the same thing as you where you can access these insights from.

Strategy development shouldn’t be function of guess work, it must be drawn from empirical evidence as a result of practical experiences or insights. So even if it’s not a primary data gotten from people in your organization, it can be sourced from secondary sources from other similar organizations, the beneficiaries themselves through their associations, research organizations or the internet. These can give you the initial insights you need to develop your initial strategy that can later be fine tuned when you interact with the target audiences.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Next week we shall continue with part 3 of the first step to sustainability and growth to cover the following:

  • When should strategy be developed for a Non-profit/Social Enterprise?
  • How can one tell if an organization has a strategy or not?
  • When strategy fails, what next?
See you at the comments. Cheers!

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