The Strategy You Need
November 22, 2021
By Maryfrances Porter & Alison Nagel
Raise your hand if you have seen – or maybe even have – one those lengthy mission statements that goes something like this:
We ensure access to affordable housing, and that low-income, elderly, and people with disabilities are able to meet their housing goals. We are passionate about providing and facilitating affordable housing options, making urgent and critical repairs that allow people to stay in their homes, and providing education and advocacy to those in need.
This reflects great work, but this is NOT a mission statement. This is not a succinct statement of the organization’s core purpose. It’s not inspirational. The strategy for delivering the impact is being embedded in this mission statement. This is a disservice to both the mission and the strategy.
Showcase the Strategy
A mission statement should be succinct and inspirational. But the “how” you do your work is important too. How do you talk about both?!?
We suggest sticking with a short and inspirational mission statement for our example nonprofit Housing for All: We empower low-income, elderly, and people with disabilities to meet their housing needs. And then articulating your strategy.
We define an organization’s strategy as the buckets of work being done toward the same impact. Identifying these buckets can be a little tricky until you get the hang of it. It’s not necessarily who is being served, and it’s definitely not where services are being delivered. Strategy is all about impact. Each strategy could, in theory, stand on its own. Each strategy could be a focused mini-organization. However, the beauty of delivering the strategies as a continuum of service is that they result in a bigger community-level impact.
The most important part of our innovative and actionable Strategic Impact Map™ is that we pull the strategy out of the mission statement, and link each strategy to specific programs, indicators of productivity, and indicators of success and impact. Once you see it, you’ll wonder how you ever did anything else.
The Mission – The Core Purpose
We empower low-income, elderly, and people with disabilities to meet their housing needs.
The Strategies – How You Fulfill that Purpose
Most small- and medium-sized nonprofits we have worked with have three strategies: one that is an intensive service to a few people; a second that is a less intensive service to many people; and a third that is focused on education, outreach, and/or advocacy. Let’s look at an example:
Strategy #1 Affordable Housing Options: To meet our mission, we will own and manage affordable rental units, administer Housing Choice Vouchers, and assist First-Time Home buyers in order to ensure people are living in stable, quality, and affordable housing.
If an organization just focused on this one thing, you wouldn’t be disappointed. This is intense and expensive work. The programs and activities? Owning and managing rentals, administering vouchers, helping first time home buyers. The impact? People are living in stable, quality, and affordable housing. Imagine being able to focus on counting just these activities and capturing how many people are in affordable housing.
Strategy #2 Emergency Home Repairs: To meet our mission, we will provide urgent and necessary repairs to make homes “warm, safe, and dry,” as well as certain upgrades to make homes more accessible for seniors and disabled persons.
Now this sounds like a bonus! Now it’s clear that there is a whole set of programs focused on making sure that people who are already in affordable housing are able to stay there while being “warm, safe, and dry.” This really extends the reach of the nonprofit and provides a much-needed service to lots of people who are already in affordable, but substandard, housing.
Strategy #3 Education and Support: To meet our mission, we will provide individualized education, counseling, advocacy coaching, and referrals to housing and legal services so people have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet their housing needs.
So now it’s clear that people can get support from this organization whether or not they participate in Strategy 1 or 2. Anyone (in the population served) can call up and get education and support that helps them navigate the housing system and learn how to meet their housing needs. This nonprofit is clearly making sure their expertise is broadly available.
Why Articulating Strategies is so Helpful
Just glancing at the Housing for All’s Strategic Impact Map, you can see each strategy in a column, color coded (blue, green, peach).
Once you are able to articulate your strategies, you can figure out how much it costs to do each one. You can identify the staff time, materials, portion of rent, etc. needed to actualize each strategy. Then you can identify grants and donors that support this work.
Now you are also so much more clear about the impact (aka success and value of this work) on the people served. You now know exactly what you are measuring for each strategy.
Strategic Impact Map™
A Strategic Impact Map™ is a framework for telling your most powerful impact story. It’s a one-page document that tells an efficient story of, not only why and how your organization does good, but also how you are measuring it!
If you like how this sounds, you’ll love creating a Strategic Impact Map™ for your organization! If you want to see what a sample Strategic Impact Map looks like, you can find it here. You can also watch a short video that gives you a little more information about what it is!
Want to learn to create one yourself? Well, we have three options!
Solution #1: Join us for a 2-Hour, Live Workshop
We are offering an in-depth, live, online workshop where you learn everything you need to know to build your very own Strategic Impact Map on Tuesday, 12/7/2021 11am – 1pm EST.
After this workshop you will walk away with:
- A deep understanding of all the parts of a Strategic Impact Map.
- An outline of the Strategies your organization uses. (This is the most important part of creating a Strategic Impact Map!)
- A detailed guide for creating a Strategic Impact Map at your organization (sold separately for $150, but free when you register for the workshop).
- A case study which gives you a concrete example to base your Strategic Impact Map on.
- Templates in Word you can use for creating your own Strategic Impact Map.
- A new group of colleagues because we all need a community of like-minded peers to support our work.
Solution #2: Get Our Guide
Can’t make the webinar? No problem, you can use this step-by-step Guide to create your own Strategic Impact Map. The Guide includes details on each of the parts of the Map, instructions for facilitating small group meetings to create a Map, and how to translate your Strategic Impact Map™ into a Theory of Change or Logic Model any time you’re asked.
Solution #3: We Can Work with You Personally
Like we have done for dozens and dozens of others, we can work with you, your staff, and/or your Board to develop a Strategic Impact Map. Drop us a line, and we can figure out exactly what would work best for your organization!
At Partnerships for Strategic Impact®, we focus on coaching, training, and supporting small- and medium-sized nonprofits in telling powerful impact stories. You’ve worked hard to develop honest, trusting relationships with all your stakeholders and funders, and you have the powerful testimonials highlighting how you’ve changed lives. But we all know numbers still matter.
You really can tell the whole story of how your organization is improving people’s lives. You really can talk about how people can take what they learn and make lasting change. And you really can talk about how your work is done in service of improving community conditions for everyone.
This is within reach. Your funders and the people being served deserve to know more about the value your organization delivers.
We Get It
Your work is value driven. Its value lies in the impact of your work on the people served. Let us help you tell your impact story. Reach out, answering questions is our specialty.
— Maryfrances & Alison
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