23rd September 2021Business Strategy: Insights for Charities

‘Strategy’ is one of the most mis-used and grand sounding words in our business language.  After all, “What’s our strategy for dealing with this?” sounds so much better than “What do we do now?”  Simply put, your business’s strategies are the handful of priorities, within your control, which will increase your chances of success.  Executed well, these strategies will shift the odds in your favour.

Perhaps think of your charity as a machine, and your strategies as dials on the machine that you can twist and tweak until your dream vision comes out the other end.  If you could only have nine dials, which ones would you insist on having?  ‘Fundraising’?;  ‘Social media’?;  ‘Partnerships’?;  ‘Consistent Quality?;  ‘Training’?; ‘Process’?;  ‘Budgeting and Forecasting’?;  ‘Governance’?

With each of your nine strategic dials neatly labelled, answer these two questions; what results do we expect from successfully executing it, and how will we do it.  Here’s an example from a recent One Page Strategy we worked on with a charity client: “Measurement: develop and implement a database to measure our impact and help us with funding applications, attracting donors and to generally track our progress”.

Sounds simple?  That’s because great strategies should be clear and brutally concise.  The longer the explanation required, the less you have thought about it and the more likely you are to struggle with executing it successfully.

Why ‘nine’ (or possibly less) strategies?  Each strategy needs to be executed brilliantly, with focus and the application of precious resources.  We have yet to find an organisation that is capable of focusing it’s time and money in more than nine major initiatives at the same time!

If your senior team is struggling to agree on the nine strategies, there is a good chance that you don’t all agree on some fundamental, underlying questions.  One of our favourite workshops is called “The seven strategy questions you must never stop asking.”  Some of the questions are deceptively simple – ‘which words would we like to own in the minds of our stakeholders’?  Others are devilishly difficult and may take years, if ever, to answer – ‘which industry wide problem would we love to solve and thereby gain a 10x advantage’.  The discussion is just as important as finding the answers, which is why these questions should be regularly revived.

Articulating your strategies is undeniably hard work but it is also a rare chance for the team to work ‘on the business’ instead of being absorbed ‘in the business’.  The process should be hugely enjoyable, energising and is a brilliant way to bring the team closer together.

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