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Connections - 10.28.21

A Guide to Energizing Leadership and Board Performance: Becoming A Strategically Aligned Nonprofit Organization

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by Dennis Miller, Dennis C. Miller Associates

I have been very fortunate to work with many great people and organizations over the past 35 years in the nonprofit social impact sector, including providers of behavioral health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and children and family services. They have all had a very positive influence on me and I guess you can say that I have been truly blessed. What impresses me the most is the passion and commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. Their hard work and commitment to ensure their respective organization succeeds despite the increasing number of challenges and obstacles inspires me.

What concerns me the most, however, is how many nonprofit organizations continue to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy without the results and successes they hoped for. Regardless of their purposeful missions and business objectives, many chambers struggle to fully engage their boards and stakeholders to develop the resources to survive, let alone succeed.

I believe there is a smarter more effective way for nonprofit organizations of all sizes to achieve long-term success and sustainability. This innovative process is called the concept of Strategic Alignment, which refers to the process of aligning all stakeholders, internal and external, to be focused and committed to achieving one goal: your organization’s vision. The concept requires the development of new competencies and non-traditional skill sets for executive and board leadership.

To become a successful and thriving nonprofit organization, there are four key components that need to be part of your strategic planning process:

  • An upfront, comprehensive assessment of the organization to identify key strengths and crucial areas of needed improvement.
  • A clear vision with established measures of successful progress to align the entire organization’s efforts.
  • A comprehensive funding plan to secure the necessary resources.
  • A detailed plan for implementation and execution with buy-in from both the board and leadership team.

Having performed numerous organizational and/or board performance assessment studies, what became obvious to me was the absolute lack of any real alignment of the nonprofit organization in pursuit of an agreed upon vision. Many organizations don’t even have a real vision statement. Even those few who have a vision statement admitted it was often a meaningless statement about “becoming all things to all people.” Everyone worked very hard on many strategic and budgetary issues, but they were not aligned toward a common goal.

It became apparent to me for any nonprofit organization to be successful, all their goals and strategic initiatives must be strategically aligned. The entire organization, including the work of the board, leadership and staff, must be restructured to require that individual goals are fully aligned with organizational goals. Everyone must be on the same page, no more “silo mentality.”

Too many organizations focus solely on the external environmental challenges when the reason most organizations fail is their inability to address their internal obstacles. Internal obstacles include the lack of trust and respect among senior leadership, stale programs, board members who have stayed too long and the lack of transformational leadership competencies. A nonprofit organization needs to honestly address both challenges, internal and external, to be in strategic alignment. In essence, the organization needs to be in strategic alignment towards achieving their vision.

Dennis C. Miller is the Founder & Chair of DCM Associates (dcm-associates.com), an ANCOR Gold Partner and a nationally recognized firm with expertise in nonprofit executive leadership and board assessment, evaluation and development, as well as executive, CEO and C-suite searches. Dennis can be reached at [email protected].