Author’s Note: This post is the sixth part in an eight-part series on the strategic framework of the nonprofit organization — United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Click here to read the full series.
Leadership groups and boards of directors might use several filters when making decisions, but an organization’s strategic anchors are what I like to think of as its “major decision filter.” Strategic anchors can be an important tool for choosing which businesses or strategies to opt in or out of.
At United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we use four strategic anchors that have been developed within the past five years. This is how I think of each of them:
Engagement: The days of adding value by simply providing a “transaction” are over. What that means is we cannot just have one-way conversations revolving around single events or donations. We must engage others in our meaningful work in ways that are consistent with their aspirations. We define engagement in the following way: Engagement = action + relationship. If we are participating in business activities and strategies that aren’t growing our engagement with individuals and organizations in meaningful ways, then we ought to revise or dispense with those activities.
Resource Broker: United Way’s most important asset is its relationships. Our success is dependent on our ability to serve as a robust broker of time – harnessing talent, passion, and resources in ways that help individuals and organizations have a greater impact. We are at our best when we connect the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and leverage each of their respective strengths.
System-Level Change: System-level change is essential to ensuring the sustainability and lasting impact of our work. When an organization’s purpose statement is to “solve complex social issues,” our leaders must be prepared to lay the groundwork that will improve our chances for success. This means working on underlying issues such as policy, funding, leadership, and advocacy to change the systems that are barriers for the individuals and families we serve.
Results Driven: Much of the work in our sector is process-focused, not results-focused. In our mission statement we say that we want to improve our community “in measurable and lasting ways.” We believe individuals and organizations give us their trust and support because we focus on taking proven practices that drive results. At the end of the day, we all want to see evidence that our efforts and resources had a positive impact on the individual and the wider community.
As a CEO, these anchors have helped me sort through the important strategic decisions that every organization must face. Having these strategic anchors as a guide gives us consistency in our decision making and a better way to communicate the reasoning behind our actions.
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