The core of my work in working with first-time executive directors is in helping them bring their organization’s strategic plan to life. This is a situation I often see: the organization wants help planning out the “how-to’s” but their organization’s WHAT and WHO is not crystal clear.
While these NPOs are incredibly passionate about their cause, because of the craziness of day-to-day management and increased competition for funding, their initial stoic commitment to their core-competencies often gets watered-down.
Test yourself, can you answer these questions:
1. Exactly WHO do you serve? “Anyone” is not the answer (even though I know what you’re trying to say and I appreciate you for it). Who are they, where do they live, what do they struggle with, what have they tried before that didn’t work to get solutions to their problems, what do they love, what do they hate, what draws them to your organization?
2. What are you “competitors” already doing and how does your organization do it uniquely? Being a generalist doesn’t work any more. How is your approach unique? What makes you solutions different from a similar organization down the road? It’s not about being better than your competitor (we’re all fighting the same fight), it’s about being unique and being passionate about it. Being “vanilla” is depressing, re-discover the spice of your organization’s work and run with it. (See life-changing book by Seth Godin “The Purple Cow“.)
3. What are you currently saying “yes” to that draws your organization away from doing its best work? We can only focus on so many things. Are the things your organization is focusing on building a stronger brand or weakening your brand? Maybe it’s a specific program or maybe it’s a specific donor who you let call many of the shots, founder’s syndrome?? (You see what I’m saying).
Only once your organization can articulate exactly WHO you serve and WHAT you to do serve them, can you then start working the HOW-TOs. I believe your organization knows exactly what these answers are but it may be time to get back to basics.
As it relates to the WHOs and WHATs of your organization, what specific questions do you have?