Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Company Strategic Statements for Community Groups

The Collis and Rukstad article was quite relevant to my life in the last week. I am typically not involved in the strategic decision making of the organization that I work for, but I have been afforded an opportunity to put the skills I am learning into practice in the not for profit sphere.
I've recently been invited to join the board of a Community Development Corporation in a neighborhood I used to work in.  The organization's mission statement (called it's "purpose") is:

"to aid in the growth, development, and livability of the Brookline area and enhance the Brookline business district through organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring."

Unlike many community groups that struggle with recruiting members and finding resources for programming, this organization is full of a large mix of young and old residents, and has volunteers organizing events, planning community clean-ups, and publishing a neighborhood newspaper.  However, the organization suffers somewhat of a "mission creep", where our programming dollars and volunteer time is often pulled in many directions.  The organization could benefit from a Strategy Statement, as defined by Collis and Rukstad to better align its mission and vision with its actual consumers.

A strategic objective for the organization could go in several different directions.  It could focus on the community development equivalent of "maximizing shareholder value", which would likely be an increase in the property values of neighborhood residents and business owners.  The group may instead focus on increasing the number of residents in the community as a means to achieve "growth".  Alternatively, the organization could set an objective around improving quality of life for residents, which would be much harder to define.

The group's scope is already somewhat defined in that as a community development group, it has already identified a geographic area to work in.  But the customer base could use clarifying: is the organization catering to existing residents, potential new residents, property owners, business owners, or visitors?  Additionally, vertical integration needs to be clarified, because the points at which the organization intersect its consumers remains undefined.

The organization has the ability to focus on several different advantages.  Unlike a company, a non-profit is not competing for the chance to sell a product to you.  They are definitely competing for the resources necessary to bring their product to you, though. While the group collaborates with other community groups such as the Athletic Association or the Chamber of Commerce, they are competitors in the sense of competing for resources, volunteer time, and media attention, which are necessary inputs for my organization to fulfill its mission.  Having an identified advantage would help the group more effectively go after the support it needs to bring about its vision, because it sets the group apart from others.  The value proposition for the group might be "an organization of friendly and active members working for the community's best interest".  The activities that create that value proposition may be things such as the flexible structure of committees and the numerous opportunities for socialization.

I will definitely take the Collis and Rukstad framework with me to the next board meeting in an effort to strengthen our organization and give us a concise, powerful strategy statement to guide our future.

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