Lofty Missions, Down-to-Earth Plans

by V. Kasturi Rangan

MOST OF THE NONPROFITS OPERATING today make program decisions based on a mission rather than on a strategy. In fact, many nonprofits don’t have a strategy at all. They rally under the banner of a particular cause, be it “Fight homelessness” or “End hunger.” And then, since that cause is so worthwhile, nonprofits support any program that’s related to it—even if only tangentially. While it’s hard to fault people for trying to improve the state of the world, this approach is misguided. Acting without a clear long-term strategy can stretch an agency’s core capabilities and push it in unintended directions.

Consider, for example, the work of SOS Kinderdorf, headquartered in Innsbruck, Austria. ...

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