Getting Started with the Integrated Strategy

In Sustainability by Karen Buck

Daily life in a mission-driven organization can be frenetic – the emails, the meetings, the phone ringing off the hook. Taking time to step back, focus on what’s most important, and then moving in that direction can be a luxury.

But it’s also your duty as the steward of your organization, its mission, and its goals. That’s where a framework like the Integrated Strategy can help. It can offer you a way to get back in touch with that higher, more strategic level of thinking.

All of Nonprofit Impact’s work is informed by the Integrated Strategy for Success and Sustainability. If you’ve done a project with us or attended one of our training sessions, you’ve already seen the diagram above that represents the three components that lead to long-term sustainability and impact. The Integrated Strategy is informed by over 30 years’ of experience providing technical assistance for nonprofit and government entities (Why yes, thank you! We do look younger than that, don’t we?).

First, identity.

If you asked 10 people inside your organization and 10 people outside your organization to describe your operation, would you hear the same thing? Sustainability and impact require a clear identity. A mission or vision that explicitly explains the difference your organization wants to make and a set of specific, measurable, time-framed strategic goals often indicate an organization with a strong, focused identity.

Now, constituents.

Who are those individuals who would take a significant action on behalf of your organization? If your organization disappeared tomorrow, who would raise their voice in protest? Those are your constituents. Consider two things: do you have enough of these deeply-engaged constituent relationships to support your efforts? And, what is the status of the constituent relationships you do have (i.e., what have you done for me lately?)?

Lastly, capacity.

(and we don’t just mean money) Yes, you need money. But you also need the right kind of staffing (paid or volunteer), systems, structures, policies, competencies, and culture to get your work done. And it is critical that your capacity is aligned with your identity and constituents.

An organization that has a clear identity, engaged constituents, and sufficient, aligned capacity is strong, sustainable for the long-term, and able to make a real impact towards its mission. From this, your brand – your operation’s unique personality – naturally arises.

Regularly taking that step back and reconnecting with the big picture can be extremely powerful. It keeps you focused and it keeps you inspired.

Here’s what we suggest:

1. Every Monday morning, resolve to spend 10 minutes reviewing the Integrated Strategy and your strategic goals (Go put that recurring task in your calendar. We’ll wait here.)

2. Then, ask: What is the one most important action can I take this week to move my organization in the direction of increased sustainability and impact?

3. Lastly, schedule the time and do the task.

Think how different would your organization be if you did this each week for a year. Want different results? Try doing something differently.

What is that one most important action you will you resolve to take this week?