Those nonprofits that invest in evaluation are those who typically are closer to the leading edge than those who do not. So step back and ask yourself not “are you effective in achieving your mission” but “can you demonstrate it?”
As an opening premise to strategic thinking, I contend that the foundation for nonprofit strategy is an organization’s theory of change. A theory of change describes how your nonprofit organization connects its activities to create a pathway towards the goals and outcomes associated with your organizational mission. In some cases, your organization’s theory of change may be quite simple and in other cases your theory can be quite complex. The classic illustration of a theory of change is the story of the village on the river…
Starting with the core of the individual, and rippling through social relationships, families, institutions and community, a socio-ecological approach to change ultimately creates a new understanding of community norms and social policy. In my work with nonprofits, philanthropy, and government, I often see organizations excel in one, or perhaps two, circles of the model but rare is the organization that thinks about its programs and services across the entire socio-ecological system.
Facilitating meaningful differences between Vision and Mission is a critical dimension of a systemic and strategic planning process. Mission, supported by strategic programming moves an organization towards their true vision and, in the end, such movement is the core of a strong facilitation process.
Effective nonprofit organizations of the future are those who are clear about their purpose and their social impact and can draw the picture to illustrate the connection. As a result, facilitators need to be skilled in the process and visualization required to help organizations create a social impact model.