The Nonprophet Advisor

Thoughts and observations on nonprofit management from a communications and executive professional with 30 years of experience.

Strategic Assessment


Organizing properly is essential (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Throughout the process of building a new communications program, the urge is to move directly to the concrete -- publishing brochures, revamping the website, issuing press releases. But the important work of putting all of the pieces in their proper place, and assessing and positioning the organization cannot be ignored. It is essential.

By surveying what other similar organizations are doing, reviewing and assessing the organization's current materials and website and divining the opportunities that may present themselves, the organization has a much better chance of putting together an effective program and executing it effectively.

If part of the needs of the organization are to raise additional dollars through fundraising, it is important to understand who is currently giving, what messages are most effective and who are the best potential prospects. A thorough evaluation of the existing database can lead to clarity in targeting and messaging. Developing colorful brochures is only the endpoint of a carefully thought-out fundraising effort.

In one situation, a religious organization had developed a large database of donors over the years, but had neglected to develop a strategy of engaging with this potential advantage, instead relying on a small group of funders, who could no longer sustain the organization. By closely culling the existing lists, the organization was able to build a reliable source of donations on a broader scale.

Alternatively, if the organization intends to build participation in its programs, an interactive website that allows community interaction is essential. By raising the interest level of the existing members, an organization can employ its best ambassadors as emissaries to engage and attract new members. Fortunately, websites now have commonly available tools that easily foster such interaction.

Additionally, while nonprofits do not like to consider themselves in competition with others, the reality is that an organization has to grab the attention and persuade the same people that other organizations are also targeting. With that in mind, a nonprofit needs to scan the environment to understand what other organizations are in the same field and how it can differentiate itself. This should not be seen as a negative, only gaining a realistic view of what is necessary for success.

Finally, with the multitude of organizations providing services, there may be opportunities for partnering and collaboration that should be considered. Independence is always a goal, but focusing on strengths makes for better organizations. Efforts such as these can bring about breakthroughs and achievements far beyond what the individual organizations might do by themselves.

By taking the time to assess the organization's strategic position, the effort to communicate becomes easier, more focused and more cost effective.



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