How to Build an Amazing Strategy Map for Your Small Nonprofit

Strategy Map

If you’re the leader of a small nonprofit, you probably have a pretty good idea what your strategic goals are for the next three to five years for your organization, but does anyone else?  I find that leaders of small nonprofits—who are often the founders—sometimes have a difficult time articulating their strategic vision in a manner that staff, board members, clients, and other stakeholders understand it.

That’s why I suggest building a strategy map—a one-page view of your strategic objectives—to help communicate that strategic vision.  The following is a pretty simple six-step approach to putting your strategy on paper in the format of a strategy map.

Create a Strategy Map Template

First, create a template.  Divide a blank sheet of paper into 4 horizontal levels.  Label the top level “Mission.”  The next level down will be split in half—make the left side “Clients/Customers” and the right side “Finances.”  Label the third level “Internal Processes” and the fourth “Learning & Growth”.   The following picture illustrates the template.

Strategy Map Template

Strategy Map Template

You now have a strategy map template of the four Balanced Scorecard perspectives with your mission on top.

The second step is easy … just write your organization’s mission down in the mission box.  Your mission goes on the top because everything your organization does must help you achieve your mission.

Third, think about what success looks like to your clients if you are achieving your mission.  Are you filling a previously unprovided for need?  Are you giving the best service?  What will keep them satisfied? Or, better yet, amaze them?  Those two or three things are your client perspective strategic objectives.  Write them each in a box in the Client/Customer perspective.

Fourth, to achieve your mission, how must your finances look?  What do your donors and/or board expect of you financially?  Add those finance perspective strategic objectives.

Fifth, think about your internal process—the work your organization does to make your clients happy and achieve your mission.  What are those?  Also, what strategic objectives must you set for yourself to help achieve your financial goals?  This could be fundraising or process improvement.  Write these in the internal processes perspective.

A small nonprofit could have anywhere from as little as three internal processes objectives to as many as eight or nine.  However, there is no right number.

Learning & Growth is Your Foundation

Finally, looking at the bottom level of the strategy map—learning and growth, which is your foundation—what key capabilities must your organization and staff have?  What kind of people do you need to hire?  What kind of culture do you need to establish?  These are your Learning & Growth objectives.  Add them to your strategy map.

There you have it.  A first draft of your organization’s strategy in a simple, one-page strategy map.  Read it from top to bottom and then from bottom to top.  Does it make logical sense?  Can you see the cause-and-effect linkages of how your Learning & Growth objectives will help you excel at your Internal Processes, thus making your clients and your donors and board happy and help you achieve your mission? 

Share it with your staff to see if it makes sense with them because it has to—they are the team helping you execute.  Get their feedback and use it to make it better.