Lately I’ve been intrigued by the Harvard Business Review article “Strategy Tools for a Shifting Landscape” by Michael G. Jacobides (January 2010) in which he makes the case for a narrative approach to strategy analysis. Jacobides writes, “In an age when nothing is constant, strategy should be defined by narrative – plots, subplots, and characters.” There’s no more fitting arena for a narrative approach to strategy development than the American orchestral industry. As we’ve witnessed firsthand with the Colorado Symphony, the cast and characters are riveting, and the story lines and motives continue to change.
Or have they changed? Many have written about a sense of déjà vu with this latest era of symphony decline, including a recent article from Forbes. If 2012 is a lot like 1969 or the 1980s, then what’s preventing true reinvention for relevance? Perhaps the scene hasn’t fully played out or some of the actors are vying for a longer run of the current show.
Peter Linett, a partner in the Chicago-based consulting firm Slover Linett Strategies, gave an outsider’s view on the Colorado Symphony’s new business plan in his piece titled, “At the Colorado Symphony, half steps towards a consumer-first business model.” He astutely noted that “everything is being questioned except the underlying assumptions.” What Peter didn’t know is that the Sustainability Study Committee, facilitated by Corona Insights last spring, did question the underlying assumptions and identified a set of new principles to guide the organization.
Recently I had the opportunity to compare the Colorado Symphony’s new business plan, Creating a 21st Century Orchestra, with the committee’s ideas and recommendations. I was pleased to see that the committee’s work inspired the Symphony’s new strategic direction. Yet I was disappointed to note that while the committee’s ideas were included in the plan, the underlying principles that supported them were not. The words were essentially superimposed on the old approaches.
The organization’s fiscal year ends mid-year, so we’ll know very soon if the new business plan can deliver results. In the meantime, we’ll keep watching as the plot unfolds.
What better way to learn about the quality work Corona does than through the experiences of our various customers? Check out our updated Case Studies to see Corona in action. Over the years, Corona has helped a wide array of customers through market research and strategic consulting answer the questions most important to them, and then guide them from insights to successful outcomes.
You may have noticed some other recent changes to Corona’s website. We apply proven research methods and strategic insights to all of our customers, across sectors and industries. Keep checking back to find out how we can help your nonprofit, business, government agency or higher education institution.
We’re in an era of profound and broad change for the nonprofit sector. In fact, this may be the most dynamic period the sector has experienced in two decades. Not only are the rules for success being rewritten, we’re thinking anew about what to call the sector, who is in the sector, and what defines it. Add to that the uncertainties in our macro world and – wow – it doesn’t get any more interesting or exciting.
The next era nonprofit is being (re)created right now. It embraces community relevance and impact as it searches for the Holy Grail – sustainability.
Corona Insights is leading a workshop for Denver’s Social Venture Partners on the five fundamentals of sustainable, next era nonprofits. Join us on February 17 from 7:30-9:30 am to learn about these fundamentals, Corona’s cutting-edge approach to business model sustainability, and the insights and foresights we’ve gathered on the future of the sector . The SVP workshop, open to 50 participants, will focus on:
- The fundamentals of nonprofit sustainability
- The importance of strategy and business model design for sustainable nonprofits
- The board’s role in sustainability
Contact Pat Landrum, Executive Director of SVP Denver, for more information and to RSVP.
Do you confuse planning with strategy? Check out Karla’s featured article on CausePlanet.org – Strategy is a 24/7 Endeavor. Karla articulates Corona’s approach to strategy development and even includes a few 2012 resolutions for you.
This article also heralds Corona Insights’ partnership with CausePlanet.org, an online resource for nonprofit leaders. For years, CausePlanet.org has been showcasing the latest thinking in the nonprofit sector through their Page to Practice™ book summaries, as well as blogs and relevant articles. Through this ongoing relationship, Corona and CausePlanet.org will continue to synthesize the best thinking and publications out there for you.
Tomorrow (December 6) is Community First Foundation‘s second annual Colorado Gives Day. This 24-hour event is a special opportunity to “give where you live.” Last year, Colorado Gives Day exceeded expectations and their $1 million fundraising goal by raising $8.4 million. In 2010, about 540 nonprofits participted and 83% acquired new donors.
This year, all bets are off! There are over 900 participating nonprofits across the state. Corona Insights is pleased to see so many past clients and colleagues on the list: 9Health Fair, Bluff Lake Nature Center, Center for African American Health, Center for Work Education and Employment, Clinica Tepeyac, Colorado Youth at Risk, Denver Children’s Advocacy Center, Denver Public Schools Foundation, Family Tree, Metro Volunteers, Mile High United Way, Nurse-Family Partnerships, Qualistar Colorado, Rebuilding Together Metro Denver, Rocky Mountain PBS, The Children’s Museum of Denver, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and Warren Village… just to name a few!
Check out the Colorado Gives Day website to find your favorite nonprofit. Or, discover a new one to support! You have from midnight to midnight to contribute.
A few years ago I realized that the phrase “business model” was being used more and more in nonprofit settings. Intrigued, I did a little research and found several definitions for the private sector but none specifically for nonprofits. The language that seemed to fit across sectors focused on the logic of an organization. It’s helpful to recall that the term model refers to a design, pattern, or description.
Ah ha! A nonprofit business model is a description of how an organization operates. How simple is that? Haven’t we been describing our models all along? Nope. Not really.
Publications, such as the Nonprofit Quarterly, and consultants like yours truly have brought the concept to the forefront. Why? Sustainable nonprofit organizations in today’s world are designed upon a fundamental premise – a business model that works.
A working nonprofit business model must be designed well – and with intention. I believe philosophical clarity is the starting point. This meaningful foundation keeps us from “chasing the money.” Instead, we are answering fundamental questions:
- What philosophy guides our programming?
- Does our funding model support annual operations and long-term growth?
- How can we consciously design our funding to fit our programs and engage the community with our mission?
As a framework for nonprofits, Corona Insights’ offers the Synergistic Business Model, which has three basic components – programs, financial resources and community engagement. After all, what is the nonprofit sector if it isn’t serving community? Sounds pretty logical to me.
To learn more about the Synergistic Business Model, click here.
The concept of a nonprofit business model has percolated up to the collective conscious. You know you’ve hit on something interesting when it is being embraced by some and hotly debated by others. The ongoing conversations about arts organizations nationally (the Colorado Symphony is a prime local example) illustrate this fact.
Too many nonprofits – and the same is true for businesses and governments – have business models that simply don’t work any longer. The media is filled with stories of unsustainable institutions, whether they are cities like Denver (reliant on sales tax), the legal profession (deliver services in the billable 15 minute increment), or nonprofits (dependent upon contracts or grants from sources in decline).
Ultimately, it’s not a matter of what we call it but how soon can it be addressed. We can argue the term – I don’t like it; it sounds too corporate; how do we define it? Or, we can get to the work at hand, namely designing nonprofit organizations that align with today’s realities, demands, and opportunities. Let’s embrace the nonprofit business model with the best of intentions in service to communities and customers.
Think big. Be bold. Stay Focused. Accomplish More.
These are the opening words of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado‘s new strategic plan, and we couldn’t agree more! In June 2011, Corona Insights wrapped up a transformational strategic planning process with the Foundation.
With new leadership in place, WFCO came to Corona because they needed a game plan for the future. Their annual Denver Luncheon was the “must attend” event of the year and their research on the Cliff Effect was still garnering attention. However, they knew there was untapped potential and they needed help to chart that bold path forward.
With the aid of a savvy Strategy Task Force, Corona helped WFCO get “unstuck.” It was time to reconsider out-dated language, transactional approaches, necessary capacity and core organizational strengths. It was time to truly be the voice for women and girls in Colorado! It was time to build philanthropy and inspire collective action!
WFCO is definitely living into their new strategic direction. Check out their beautiful brochure [link no longer available]! We love the moving, sassy messaging. In particular, we’re proud of the reference to Corona’s “Five Fundamentals for Nonprofit Sustainability” on page 2.
Hot off the presses! The Colorado Nonprofit Association just released their “Understanding Giving” report, which compiles latest research into the beliefs and behaviors of Colorado’s donors. Corona Insights was delighted to lead the survey research that informed this influential study in partnership with SE2. This report represents the Association’s ongoing commitment to their Generosity Project.
The Colorado Nonprofit Association began the Generosity Project back in 2007. While Coloradans have a relatively high average income, they lag behind other states in terms of charitable contributions (financial and in-kind). The Generosity Project strives to expand expertise on Colorado’s charitable sector with the ultimate goal of making Colorado a more generous state.
Since 2007, they’ve engaged in various initiatives, from publishing best practices to communications strategies. Our friends at the Association are also strong believers in research and data-driven messaging. Corona Insights was previously retained in 2008 to conduct analyses on the economic impact of giving in Colorado and Why Donors Give.
We look forward to more from The Generosity Project and its positive impact on our state’s charitable sector.
Corona Insights is thrilled to be one of the socially responsible companies featured in a new book, Strategy for Good, by Susan Hyatt, founder and CEO of Business Nonprofit CONNECTIONS, Inc.
Strategy for Good uses real-world examples to illustrate “how to create all-win solutions that demonstrate your [company’s] values, benefit the causes you care most about, and boost your profitability.” As the book describes, community involvement is now a “must do” for businesses and can be used strategically.
Corona Insights is proud of their long track-record of community involvement. From philanthropy to volunteerism, Coronitas believe strongly in our community partnerships and the importance of giving back. We enjoy sharing our expertise through board service, presentations and membership organizations, as well as giving our time outside the office.
Strategy for Good
Good Works Publishing, Denver
Available Now on Amazon