Savvy executives need a trusted advisor – someone to help them identify strategic questions, offer foresights on trends, reality-check ideas and serve as a champion of change. Someone to help them stay true to their long-term vision while they navigate the day-to-day issues. In today’s world, strategy development and execution need to be an ongoing endeavor. Finding time for strategic thinking, not to mention strategic doing, can be a challenge. That’s why more CEOs are turning to a Chief Strategy Officer to aid them in designing, executing, measuring and fine-tuning their strategy on regular basis.
Many organizations don’t need a Chief Strategy Officer full-time, nor can they afford one. Corona is pleased to bring its expertise to you. Karla Raines, a sought after strategist, can serve as your of counsel strategist or adjunct Chief Strategy Officer. Drop her a note. She’d be happy to advise you.
Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Denver Arts & Venues have officially launched the public input process for “Imagine 2020: Creating a future for Denver’s culture.” Imagine 2020 is a data-driven and inclusive community process to create a cultural plan for the City of Denver. Corona Insights is thrilled to facilitate this important process.
In addition to a public survey, Corona is gathering input from a 120-member stakeholder leadership group and from the broader artistic, cultural and creative sectors through a variety of events during the process. The first convening of the stakeholder group was held on March 22, which kicked us off with lots of energy and excellent ideas. Check out more photos here.
It can be equally difficult to define the concept of “strategy” as it is to articulate it for your organization. Strategy, by nature, is abstract, complex and evolving. We recognize the term from all sorts of venues – chessboards, the football locker room, and battlefields. In the nonprofit sector, it often shows up in the board room, disguised as a SWOT analysis and bogged down with excessive planning.
Maybe that’s why so many strategic plans are doomed to a life of dust collection.
An effective nonprofit strategy specifies a long-term objective and focused direction that leverages an organization’s internal situation and accounts for the dynamic, competitive external context. There are many schools of thought, resources, and approaches to creating your organizational strategy. But the end result is your organization’s magic eight ball.
Well, it’s a well-informed, non-random magic eight ball.
In the other words, strategy provides the credibility and direction to say “yes” or “no.” Imagine a situation that requires an important decision or action. Should we apply for this competitive Federal grant? Should we focus more on advocacy? Is our current facility and database sufficient? Can we grow our volunteer program? With a strong strategy, you now have a rubric by which to answer those questions.
A well-informed strategy will indicate where the outlook is good and if the signs point to yes, as well as what to do if the sources say no. Having a clear focus and goals will help the Board say, “It is decidedly so,” or “Don’t count on it” with more confidence and consensus than ever before. There will be times when the reply is hazy and you need to ask later, which is why strategies are meant to be flexible and adaptable (but that’s another blog post).
As a strategic consultant at Corona Insights, I’ve witnessed the power of strong organizational strategies. And it’s always nice to see clients avoid the dreaded “better not tell you now.”
In the nonprofit sector, we take our work very seriously. There are lives at stake. Social injustices to right. Children to feed. But for a moment, let’s take a deep breath. And improvise.
The maxims of improvisation are applicable beyond comedy clubs and jazz concerts. Creative solutions and adaptable practices are the foundation of the sector and the way of the future. Improvisation provides guideposts to harness that energy.
As an improviser myself, I’d like to share a few of my favorite lessons that are relevant to the sector… and life in general.
Be Present. Improv is about being in the moment. It’s about now. Nonprofits are solving immediate problems. Being present means listening actively to your peers, constituents, stakeholders, etc. It also means trusting your gut and reacting in the moment.
Say, “Yes, and…” One of the main rules of improv is to never deny. “No” will take you nowhere. “Yes” is a beginning. “Yes” is an invitation. “And” is how we get there together. Collaboration is key in the nonprofit sector. The basis for successful collaborations is “yes, and.”
Practice gratitude. When you are in the moment, everything is a gift. Gratitude builds trust and community. It makes others want to give more and encourages us to offer all we can in return. Of course, we know to say thank you to donors. But think of all the ways you can integrate gratitude into your daily work and life.
Relax and play. Improv is fun. Well, I think it’s fun. As mentioned, sometimes the nonprofit world is serious, discouraging, or just plain hard. But some of the best solutions come from play. Give yourself permission to imagine, scheme, be silly, invent, fail, play around! It’s a lot more fun and you’ll be amazed by the results.
These are not new or revolutionary concepts, but they are particularly relevant in the sector. Nonprofits endeavor to solve complex social problems while navigating a variety of factors and barriers. But they are also creative, community-driven, innovative and collaborative in their effort to make the world a better place. In my opinion, a better place is one brimming with “yes” and “thank you.”
Learn more about the “Way of Improvisation” from in this great TEDx video.
This year, we celebrated Coronaween. Staff donned our official company colors and feasted on a potluck lunch of Halloween-inspired goodies. We voted on our annual spirit award, which was duly given to Kevin. Check it out!
Can you guess how many sticks of butter were used for our collective desserts?
How did this masterpiece come to be and why is it relevant? In August, a New Zealand nonprofit organization called Cure Kids decided to host a celebrity comedy fundraiser called Red Nose Day. Naturally, they enlisted the support of the NZ rock and television sensation, Flight of the Conchords. Jermaine and Bret of the band understood the importance of this event and wanted to strike the right note with their audiences. So they did a bit of market research with their most critical constituency – the kids themselves.
The hit song, “Feel Inside (and Stuff Like That),” performed with a collaborative group of musicians and singers, gave voice to this unique group and spoke directly to those individuals who care about them. The result? Red Nose Day raised $1.3 million for Cure Kids.
Sure, the success of Red Nose Day was not solely due to this catchy tune. But this story is also a great case study in the power of viral marketing and our global digital age. Why else would we know about a charity event in New Zealand here in Denver?
We believe nonprofits require five fundamentals to be strong and sustainable in the 21st century. One of those fundamentals has gained a lot of attention recently: identity. Identity is most commonly perpetuated by the notion of brand. Establishing and sustaining a strong organizational brand is no longer a luxury for nonprofits. But a great brand can do so much more.
A recent article in CausePlanet reinforces the idea that brand is now a “nonprofit imperative.” An organization’s “social purpose” and “value proposition” can be communicated through a brand that focuses on outcomes. As a result, your brand can be a tool for engaging with your community, building accountability and maintaining strategic focus. The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s article, “The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector,” masterfully explains this multiplier effect. A strong brand can drive “broad, long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity.” Employees and volunteers should live the brand collectively and consistently, while outward manifestations can help to catalyze impact.
While the private sector has been harnessing the power of brand for a while, businesses are capitalizing on the concept of a “mission-oriented brand.” Nonprofits and for-profits are using strategic partnerships to boost their individual identities while promoting social change. Brand can be a vehicle to higher value creation and value capture for both organizations.
“While it is important to keep rankings such as this in perspective, our consistent upward movement suggests that people are noticing all of the great work that we are doing in implementing our strategic plan. The University also has seen the benefit of adding faculty and improving student-faculty ratios and has seen innovative new bar passage programs pay off with a steady climb in passage rates.”
Corona completed the strategic planning process for the law school at the end of 2009. It has been immensely successful for Denver Law and award-winning for Corona. Click here to read the full case study or read the strategic plan. Corona’s analytics team has also been helping Denver Law improve their bar pass rates with much clear success.