STEP 1: Develop a Strategy for Your Non-Profit or Social Enterprise


The Leverage Impact Program™ (LIP) is created for non-profits and social enterprises in order to help them achieve growth and sustainability. It’s basically a 7-step program that practically equips you with the knowledge, processes and tools to grow and sustain your non-profit or social enterprise.

In this article series, we would be starting from the very first step of the Leverage Impact Program™ (LIP), which is Strategy Development for non-profits and social enterprises.


STEP 1: How to Develop a Strategy for Your Non-Profit or Social Enterprise

Before you can know how to develop a strategy for your non-profit or social enterprise, you need to understand what a strategy is. I’m very aware the word strategy is one of the most popular management buzzwords out there, so this wouldn’t be your first time of hearing about it. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this program, it’s important we are on the same page when it comes to the meaning of strategy.

What is a Strategy?

Strategy at its very root simply means ‘how’? It is more about the process of how you get to your desired destination as a non-profit or social enterprise. Strategy is not so much about the desired destination, that’s something you should have worked on before getting to strategy development.

The desired destination in the context of non-profits and social enterprises is simply the mission you have set out to accomplish. The good cause your non-profit or social enterprise is fighting. That is your desired destination.

It could be to feed the hungry; it could be to provide shelter for the homeless. Whatever your good cause is as a non-profit or social enterprise, strategy development is about coming up with a road map on how to achieve that good cause.

A lot of the time, people tend to confuse strategy with goals or objectives. You hear them say things like; “my strategy is to feed 10,000 people” or “my strategy is to shelter 10,000 displaced people”.  These are not strategies but mere objectives. Adding a target time to achieve such objective transforms it to you goal. So this can sound like; …to shelter 10, 000 displaced people in five (5) years.  They are the desired destinations your organization is heading towards. Strategy however is basically concerned about how you intend to get there.

So as a matter of principle, it’s almost not possible for you to start developing a strategy if you haven’t first defined your purpose and mission as a non-profit or social enterprise. Such mission must also be transformed into measurable objectives and goals. It doesn’t make sense to begin to talk about ‘how’ if you haven’t sorted out your why and what’ questions first. Your purpose defines your ‘why’? and your mission defines your ‘what’? They both come before your strategy which defines your ‘how’?

I mean it’s pretty easy to know where you are going right? The problem in most cases is knowing how to get there. And this is where strategy development comes in. It helps you come up with a plan on how to get to your desired destination as an organization. In other words, strategy helps you achieve your purpose and mission as a non-profit or social enterprise. This is why a lot of people confuse strategy with their mission, because the mission is what led them to create the non-profit or social enterprise in the first place.

Strategy requires Focus

When talking about strategy, one key thing you cannot do without is focus. Strategy requires focus; you need to be very deliberate about what exactly is your means of arriving at your set destination. It must be clear and it must be simple such that anybody within the organization can easily understand, interpret and run with it.

This is why focus is very important in strategy development. To incorporate the element of focus in your organization’s strategy development, your organization must be able to set key performance indicators (KPIs) that will enable your people know what to focus on at every given time and how to measure progress over time.

These key performance indices are derived from the SMART goals you have set. Without these SMART goals, you won’t be able to stay focus on what is important per time and won’t know how to measure your progress as an organization over time.

Strategy requires Goal Setting

Goal setting is how you stay focused as an organization. Without goals it’s easy to lose focus. As a matter of fact, a lot of organizations have challenges with their strategies because of the mistakes they make during goal setting. Why? Because many people set goals that are not SMART.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is simply an acronym for goal setting that means the goals or objectives you set for your organization must be;

  • SPECIFIC – the goals or objectives you set must not be generic, they must be specific. When it comes to strategy development, you cannot afford to be generic; the devil is in the details. You have to be as specific as possible. There is no room for ambiguity. The more narrowed down the better.
  • MEASURABLE – You don’t yet have a goal or objective if you don’t know how to ascertain when it is achieved or not. The more specific they are, the easier to measure.
  • ACHIEVABLE – what’s the essence of setting a goal or objective that you cannot achieve? For your strategy to work, your goals must be achievable. Or else, why bother to pursue them?
  • REALISTIC – this is the difference between a goal and a wish. You are not trying to impress anyone, so set the goals that are within your grasp based on your current realities as an organization.
  • TIME BOUND – your goals must have an expiry date or else it won’t motivate you to act. The fact that there is a deadline to the goal would naturally push you to be focused on achieving it before that time elapse. It is very effective to work with short to medium term goals, with first and more focus on the short term. I recommend a timeline for your SMART goals to be achieved should not be more than a year, with defined milestones to be achieved set quarterly.

For example, your mission may be to feed the hungry, in your strategy development you need to set a SMART goal for an operational year. This SMART goal will help you define what exactly you want to accomplish within one year as part of your mission to feed the hungry, and what milestones must be reach every quarter within that year to show you are on track to met the year’s goal(s).

So your SMART goals within a year could be anyone of the following;

  • To feed 1,000 displaced people in a particular region/state in year 1.
  • To provide breakfast for 1,000 homes, feeding 250 persons every quarter.
  • To provide lunch to 100 primary schools, with a milestone set for 25 additional schools per quarter.

Without these clearly defined SMART goals, jumping into the strategy would be counterproductive. You need to have sorted out these SMART goals first before you can then move into the process of planning how to achieve them. That’s why so many organizations fail in articulating their strategy because of the ambiguous goals they set out to accomplish.


This is the first part of the strategy development step of our Leverage Impact Program (LIP). Next week we would look at the following:

  • Importance of strategy for Non-profits and Social Enterprises.
  • Who is responsible for Strategy ?
  • When should an Non-profits and social enterprises develop its own strategy?
  • How can one tell if a Non-profit/Social Enterprise has a strategy or not?

See you at the comments. Cheers!

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