Improve Your Nonprofit’s Programming Focus Through Matrix Mapping
I often notice that a nonprofit’s success comes down to one discipline — a focus on doing one thing very, very well.
After all, there are plenty of businesses whose focus is a key element of their success. Henry Ford reportedly said, "We'll build you any type of car as long as it's a black Model T." And when McDonald’s first started out, they focused exclusively on serving only a burger, fries and a Coke. They didn't expand their menu until they got their core product completely dialed in.
This truth extends to nonprofits, where the level of focus on products, programs and services can make all the difference in the impact your organization can make.
One of the most successful nonprofits that I’ve worked with, Vida Verde Nature Education, delivered only one simple program for about the first 15 years of its existence — just one program! That focus allowed the organization to create extraordinary results for those whom they served while building the financial and muscle needed for organizational health.
Unfortunately, focus can be lost easily. It is very tempting — and common — to pursue a variety of programs and services that promise short-term financial return and satisfy the wants and desires of the staff and board.
So, is there a tool that can help you create a more streamlined and focused approach? Yes — the matrix map.
The Basics of Matrix Mapping
I learned about matrix maps from the wonderful book by Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell called "The Sustainability Mindset: Using the Matrix Map to Make Strategic Decisions." Bell is my colleague, and I think highly of her and her excellent work.
In summary, a matrix map is a powerful tool for visualizing the connection between an organization's activities and its financial profitability.
The benefits of a matrix map are clear. It helps you determine how you can refocus and make more informed decisions. With a matrix map, you can easily pinpoint areas for improvement, identify opportunities for growth and make informed financial decisions.
The basic steps involved in creating a matrix map are:
- Identifying your core activities.
- Determining the impact that those activities have on your mission.
- Clarifying the profitability of those activities.
- Mapping the results of your assessment.
Connection Between Matrix Mapping and Strategic Planning
So, what can you do with the results of your matrix map? I suggest using that valuable insight to strengthen your nonprofit's strategic plan.
Specifically, I’ve found the results of a matrix map to be very helpful in providing insights into nonprofit programs. Considering that programming is one of the most common focus areas of a strategic plan for nonprofits (while also being one of the common areas that loses focus over time), a matrix map is a worthy exercise for evaluating this common priority.
Nonprofits are often faced with the challenge of allocating resources to numerous programs, while also ensuring that their program goals coincide with the organization's overall mission. A matrix map will help you identify the impact of your programs and weigh that impact against the profits and costs.
As an example, many years ago I was working with the staff and board of the YWCA of Golden Gate Silicon Valley on its strategic plan. The core challenge the organization faced was if the numerous programs created over the years were mission-critical and/or bleeding its funds. Creating a matrix map during a half-day planning session helped the organization decide to cut about 25% of its programs. The nonprofit captured and executed that strategy in its strategic plan.
By prioritizing actions based on their impact and profitability, you can ensure that your nonprofit is focusing on the most essential and effective actions to achieve your goals.
Utilizing a matrix map can help you focus on success. Using the information you obtain from the map will support your nonprofit's strategic plan by allowing you to identify key strategies, define the impact and feasibility of different activities, create a visual representation of the relationship between impact and profitability, and prioritize actions.
By using a matrix map as a strategic planning tool, your nonprofit can ensure that it is focused on the most essential and feasible actions to achieve its mission. Consider using this powerful tool to focus on success and enhance your nonprofit's effectiveness.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Harnessing the Power of Evaluation for Effective Programming