Thought Leadership

Three Keys to Unlocking a Successful Strategy


The world of nonprofit marketing and communications is always evolving– things are more digital than ever, hybrid formats are more common, institutional funding is harder to come by, marketing and fundraising efforts need to be fully integrated, and we’re all under increasing pressure to demonstrate a clear throughline to impact. 

Our nonprofit clients often come to us to conduct a strategic review and audit their structure, approach, and resourcing, seeking an external perspective to surface the key questions that are not immediately apparent to internal collaborators. They know their teams are smart, nimble, and hardworking, but seem to be stretched ever thinner, rarely finding time to step out of the weeds and look at the big picture. 

We start with a series of discussions that centers on three things: Purpose, Success, and Vision. Intentionally simple and straightforward, our initial discussion invites teams to step out of the headachey details of their job and dive deeper into the meaningful core of their work. 

Focusing on the following three areas at the beginning of any strategy engagement allows us to support our clients in unlocking the solutions that have been eluding them: 

1. Clarify the Purpose

We start with a question so simple it might seem obvious– Why does this matter? What is the purpose? How are your activities in service to this higher purpose? What’s most important right now?

Starting here can yield surprising results, because colleagues that have been working together for years often find that their answers are very different but related. This can help surface bigger organizational questions and reveal unconscious assumptions that can open the door to new options. 

2. Define Success

Once we’ve established why the work matters, it’s important to explore– what does success look like? What are you striving to accomplish? 

Pulling together colleagues from different departments generally reveals a varied set of responses. And examining the same from the perspective of funders, partners, and other external audiences helps build a multifaceted understanding of the goals your organization is trying to achieve. 

Under this same heading, we also pause to ask– How are you measuring success, and how valuable are these data points in making the big decisions? Sometimes teams can get overly focused on a particular metric or KPI, and this can often weaken the throughline from higher purpose to intended impact.

3. Envision the Future

Once we have clarified purpose and defined what success looks like, we look to the future. We invite our clients to actively imagine– how could things be different going forward? What might things look like one year from now, in a best-case scenario?

We find that providing this support to our nonprofit partners can often catalyze a critical reorientation of attention away from past difficulties and frustrations, toward new options and a sense of possibility. 

Once this new future has been built in the organization’s mind, it’s much easier to chart out the steps that move into reality.

Toward a New Future

These are the three keys that unlock the answers to the rest of the questions that our clients are seeking to solve. From there, our experts dive into a deeper audit of documentation, processes, staffing plans, and tech stack with tighter focus and greater insight as to what can and should be changed. 

The benefits of this approach are many: 

  • Release of long held assumptions that are limiting organizational progress
  • Identifying issues that are in an organizational ‘blind spot’ 
  • Coordinated movement toward new, more collaborative solutions
  • Redesign of processes and systems that better support your purpose, success and vision
  • Increased efficiency and role clarity, as well as more intentional and predictable investments

Ultimately, our clients find that this leads to optimization in systems, processes, and investments that make the best use of available resources to maximize impact.

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