So, now that you know the power of the word “Yet” to move you from scarcity to abundance, it’s time to start thinking about what you really want.
Perhaps the most egregious part of being stuck in scarcity is that you get so used to thinking there is never enough that you lose touch with what you really, truly want.
I see this so often with nonprofit organizations that have lost their inner compass. They’ve been so distracted by demanding funders, or so stuck on the hamster wheel of just getting by, that they lose track of the burning passion that launched their organization or their movement — the deep desire to create something better in the world.
It’s the very clear idea of what you want to accomplish that — when properly channeled — can energize your board, staff, and even your funders. It is your nonprofit’s reason for being. And you can figure it out by developing a Theory of Change.
I know that the Theory of Change sometimes gets a bad rap when funders require very complicated ones — creating just another hoop for grantees to jump through. But what I’m talking about is a simple tool that you can use internally to get everyone on the same page about what you hope to accomplish.
A Theory of Change is simply the answers to 5 key strategic questions about your future work. Once you, as a board and staff, agree on the answers to these 5 magical questions, you can then chart a future direction, craft inspiring marketing messages, figure out how to structure your staff and financial model and SO much more.
Here are the 5 transformative questions that make up your Theory of Change:
1. What people or groups are you seeking to benefit or influence? (Target Populations)
Your answer to this question determines who you focus on serving, and it also forces you to do often unpopular thing in the nonprofit sector, which is to stop serving those who you have no business serving. The answer to this question tells you who you will focus the majority of your resources on.
2. What relevant trends in or changes to the external environment are occurring? (External Trends)
You never want to do your work in a vacuum, so it is critical that you take into account demographic, cultural, economic, political shifts happening outside your walls that may have an impact on your ability to do your work.
3. How and where are our core competencies employed? (Activities)
As a nonprofit or social change organization you want to be crystal clear about what you do better than anyone else (core competencies). So figuring that out and then determining the work you will do that focuses on those core competencies is key.
4. What changed conditions do you believe will result from your Activities? (Outcomes)
This is arguably the most important part of your Theory of Change because it articulates what you exist to accomplish, and it’s also how you hold yourself accountable both internally and externally.
5. What evidence do you have that this theory will actually result in change? (Assumptions)
It’s not enough to just to create a theory, you have to base it in evidence. There must be some reason or data that makes you think if you focus on these Target Populations, doing these Activities, you will achieve these Outcomes. So articulate exactly what those are.
If you approach answering these questions and creating your Theory of Change from a place of abundance, it becomes an exciting endeavor, not a chore. When you give yourselves permission to analyze, discuss and then come to consensus about why you do the work you do, a whole world opens up to you.
If you want more help creating your Theory of Change, download my free Design a Theory of Change Step-by-Step Guide.
And there is plenty more about how to figure out what you want in my upcoming book, Reinventing Social Change, out February 2021. Make sure you are subscribed to my email list because next month we’ll be giving away free copies of the book, along with lots of other insider info and opportunities. You can join the Social Velocity e-list here.
Photo Credit: Marc-Olivier Jodoin