A key task when engaging in strategic planning for any nonprofit is scanning the external environment. Our goal? To spot the signal. Why is the signal so darn difficult to see? Our sight is clouded by the details and drama of today. Too often we find executives and boards mistake near-term drama for tomorrow’s opportunity or threat. What do I mean by drama? The “he said, she did, they think” details, innuendo, conjecture and unknowns that consume our time and keep us guessing.

It’s so tempting to fixate on the drama. No surprise really. That’s what we love about TV and Twitter.

We advise nonprofit leaders to reassess the signal annually – and ideally real-time. Once you scan the environment and conduct the PEST analysis it’s time to perform a competitive analysis. Then you can ask yourselves a few simple questions.

• What’s does the signal look like?
• Where is today?
• What will impact it in the future?

If you let the drama keep you focused on today you’ll miss the signal – and worse yet, risk getting caught in the vortex of anxiety. It’s a bit like watching reruns of a show you never really liked. You distract yourself when you’ve got better things to do, like setting a data-driven strategy.

Need help making sense of it all? Give us a call. Our signal spotters (AKA our nonprofit consultants) are ready to assist.