Leading Change
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Keep Your Ministry Strategy Coherent

lego blocks“While the hit to fundraising has hurt many not-for-profits, the more fundamental core problem is strategic. These institutions lack a strategy for connecting their mission with their ability to deliver. In short, this is a crisis of coherence.”Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi from a recent Harvard Business Review article.

The article notes how many non-profits have managed to achieve their goals and raise funds in spite of a tough economy. Those that have thrived have managed to keep their resource allocation tied strictly to the core values and distinctives.

Although the article talks mostly about large financial gifts towards activities outside of a non-profits core competencies and values as a major distraction, I would say anything that causes a ministry to release a significant amount of resources towards anything outside of it’s core will sacrifice it’s future success.

So often ministries blame a lack of spiritual fervency for their struggling performance–most of the ministries that I have been a part of or worked with that struggled had an abundance of spiritually fervent people–their problem was a structure that promoted and resourced non-core activities.

“When a not-for-profit becomes incoherent, its attention is distracted from the thing it needs to do most: Investing time, energy and funds to build critical capabilities to accomplish its strategic purpose.”–source

I loved the phrase “critical capabilities” from the previous quote. Some general examples I have seen include:

  • Non-paid volunteer leaders
  • Outside mentoring and coaching from experienced professionals of the local community.
  • Strategic thinkers to design and continually update an overall strategy oriented toward the future.
  • A large amount of “new people” that are joining primarily for the mission and vision and secondarily for the community or personal benefits.

Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, a non-profit that expanded greatly in 70’s-90’s recently increased it’s focused by transferring a significant portion of it’s existing services to other non-profits so it could focus on it’s core competencies:

“In 2002, director Geoff Canada led an effort to divest some of these services, not by shutting them down but by transferring them to other qualified agencies like the Jackie Robinson Senior Center. The name change to “Harlem Children’s Zone” further signified that henceforth this agency would focus on its core mission: helping children and teenagers who would otherwise be at risk. They still offer a wide range of services, but all of them focus on children and teenagers, drawing upon the capabilities that Canada and the staff are known for.”

The key question that I walk away with is “What sorts of programs or activities can I transfer in order to focus more on my core mission?” I believe the answers to that question would lead to significant change!

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