I run a nonprofit. How relevant, really, are these ideas for me?

A great strategy is valuable to any organization. At its heart, the goal is to give an organization a difference that matters, and enable it to do something of importance particularly well. Having a strategy to do this is every bit as important for a nonprofit as for a for-profit business venture.

It would be a huge mistake to think that nonprofits are exempt from the rigors of competition or to assume that how they perform and what they add won't constantly be evaluated relative to alternatives. To the contrary! Competition in the non-profit sphere is as intense as any, and most nonprofits operate on even tighter budgets, with scarcer resources and more diffuse pathways between them, their clients, and those who fund their activities. This makes the need for clarity and effectiveness all that much greater.

As a nonprofit, you need to have a good understanding of your purpose — what you will do and what you won't do — and you must build an organization that is parsimonious and tightly tailored to that end. That means you'll also need the metrics one would demand of any first-class organization. All of this becomes part of who you are: Hone it carefully. Doing so will not only make your organization stronger; it will also help you tell your story to all who need to know.

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