Bring Focus to Your Organization

I work for a nonprofit and co-own a business with my husband. When it comes to either type of organization, there are always far more ideas than we can put into practice. It’s also easy to be sidetracked … taken down a path that isn’t particularly good for your organization.

How do you pick the most appropriate path? How do you decide what to do among hundreds of competing good ideas?

Here’s a tool I developed based on my experiences with numerous nonprofits, but it can also be applied to businesses.

Focus your organization’s activities around three factors: Mission, Income, and Audience.

Bring focus to your organization's activities using mission, income and audience. Infographic by Mary Warner, 2016.
Bring focus to your organization’s activities using mission, income and audience. Infographic by Mary Warner, 2016.

In the center is the activity you are considering, “That Thing Your Organization Wants To Do.”

Surrounding “That Thing” is a triangle whose points feature Mission at the top and Income and Audience at the bottom.

Mission is at the top because of its utmost importance. Whatever activity you want to engage in, it needs to meet the mission of the organization. If it doesn’t, why are you doing it? I often see nonprofits hosting fundraisers that have no connection to their mission. They are using fundraisers as a way to keep their doors open. This is an important goal, to be sure, but fundraisers take a lot of time and energy. Why not use them as an opportunity to meet your mission and communicate that with your stakeholders?

Income and Audience are the other focusing factors and they are equal in my mind. Nonprofits need money to operate, though we might like to think and hope otherwise. If you are planning an activity, consider the income opportunities inherent in it. Do this even if you want to offer the activity for free or at a reduced cost. Can you get a grant for the activity? Do you offer memberships or take donations? If so, how can you use your “free” activities to provide the opportunity for participants to become members or make contributions?

Be sure to consider any costs your activity might incur. Costs will offset your income. Try not to set up a situation where activities are putting your organization in the red.

When it comes to Audience, many of us slip into the trap of thinking the General Public is our audience. We want to reach everyone. Surely our mission is so crucial that everyone will think it is important and want to support it.

Nope.

Give up on the notion that you’re going to reach everyone. It’s impossible, particularly with the competing demands on people’s lives. Instead, focus each of your organization’s activities on one or two specific audiences. You are not stuck with these same audiences forever; the next activity can be geared toward a new audience. In this way, you can eventually have a greater reach than shooting for the amorphous General Public, only a tiny percentage of which is paying any attention to what your organization is doing.

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Does this infographic provide you a new perspective in focusing your organization’s activities? Is it easy to use? If you have success in putting this tool into practice, let me know. If you have ideas for improving it, let me know that too.

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