Talk—or action?

This is time of year when many nonprofit organizations examine their current situation through board retreats or similar venues of volunteer and staff leadership. “Strategic planning” is the word that one often hears. What makes for true strategy and is it worth the effort?

Strategy, by definition, is the precursor to action. Concrete actions with material consequences always succeed strategy. Too often, however, what passes for strategy is simply a wish for the upcoming year. If everything goes to plan. . .then we’ll raise ……. Our ultimate goal is a new facility. . . . Let’s set our fundraising goal to balance our budget. Do any of these sound familiar? If they do, you’re in plenty of company.

Strategy that stands the test is rooted in concrete action. Concrete action requires specific content, a time line, clear lines of responsibility, realistic costs estimates and budget, a vehicle to measure progress against all of these. Without these, you’re simply engaging in the classic mental sedative called “wishful thinking.”

Fundraising is the handmaiden of a well-crafted strategy. Money is never raised in a vacuum. Successful fundraising is successful, in large part, because the strategy that it seeks to make reality is grounded in concrete action that makes sense to those who are being asked to support it—the donors.

Larry C. Johnson
M. E. Grace & Associates