Guest Article by Zach Clark
Do you really have clarity on your strategy?
Strategy is a word that gets thrown around and can be made much more complicated than it needs to be. Often, leaders will come up with a long and detailed written plan that they will refer to as their “strategy.” While it’s very important to have a written plan, you still may lack a clearly defined strategy for moving your ministry forward.
I’m going to share with you 3 Core Components that really comprise strategy for a ministry.
First, I need to give you a bit of a heads up. Some of the terms that I’m going to use here may sound like “business” terms, and one of the things that we run into a lot with ministries is they’ll say, “Woah, hang on! This is ministry! This is not a business!”
True. Yours is a ministry, not a business. But what we have to share with you here isn’t about introducing more “business thinking” into ministries. Instead, we are all about bringing effective thinking into ministry. If it works in business, it’s because it’s effective. If it works in ministry, it’s because it’s effective and based on Truth.
Keep in mind that your strategy starts with your vision, mission, and values. There’s no way you can formulate a solid strategy if you aren’t crystal clear on these.
You should be able to describe your vision in terms of a profile of a person whose life is transformed through the ministry. The outcome of your vision should be best described as pictured in the life of an individual person or family.
It’s not enough to just have a vision statement. You have to take your vision and clarify the thinking as it relates to a vision for a life transformed. We call this a profile of your vision.
Your mission should describe how you do what you do and who you serve.
Your values are the guiding principles, those core elements of who you are as a ministry that should never change. Another way to think about core values is “this is us at our best” as we faithfully apply our mission in pursuit of our vision for lives saved or changed.
Now, let’s talk about the 3 Core Components that are the most critical to strategy. If you get these three right, the other details and tactics of articulating strategy will fall into place.
1. Define Who You Serve
Who do you serve? In a ministry, sometimes there are multiple constituent groups served, but we want you to focus in on clearly articulating and defining who you serve, the individual that is most impacted by the work that you do.
Who are these people? How do you describe them demographically? What age are they? What do they believe? What is it that they’re connected to about your ministry? What is it that they’re passionate about? Another way to ask this is how do you know who they are when you see them? How could you spot them in a crowd? You are looking for people who are perfectly fit for your ministry, they just don’t know it yet!
Clarity in knowing who you serve is also helpful in building relationships with donors. If your ministry’s economic engine (which we’re going to talk about later in this article) is driven completely by donations, you must be crystal clear about the fact that you seek to accomplish specific things in the lives of specific people, not only in the work of the ministry, but in your relationships with donors that are funding the ministry. If you are funded by nearly 100% donors, then serving them well is nearly equal in importance to the outcomes of the ministry.
2. Clarify The Value You Provide
Your value equation is the second part of your strategy. The clearer you can become about who you serve, the clearer you can be about the value equation. Value can be defined as an equation.
What you get
What you pay
This is not anything new, but we often miss this in ministries because we aren’t thinking in terms of selling a product. Think about this in terms of an equation. If you pay $10 and you get $5 of value in return, well that’s a recipe for a business that’s not going to grow. Would you be satisfied if you paid $10 for a $5 experience?
Unfortunately, many ministries do the exact same thing all the time. People are investing, giving, serving, and becoming a part of the impact, but the value that they see, hear about, or experience is much less than what they’re putting in. You will never grow the support for your ministry in this way.
Look at this equation though; if you pay $10 and you receive $20 in value, now that’s astounding! Think through your value equation and ask yourself, “what are people getting who experience our ministry?”
3. Understand Your Economic Engine
The economic engine is critically important when you’re talking about moving forward. This is the reason why most ministries really struggle. They’ve not contemplated this.
In a business, the economic engine can be described as Profit per X, (profit per customer, profit per product, profit per user experience.) For a ministry, I like to use the word ‘margin,’ as in margin per donor, margin per program. Another way to think about this is impact per dollar.
Is your economic engine the impact per donation, impact per product sold, impact per tuition or impact per long-term relationship with a donor? It’s so very important to think this through. Is 80% of your school driven by tuition? Then tuition drives your economic engine, and giving positions you to improve. Is 75% of your ministry revenue from designated giving? Then project specific donations drives your economic engine.
Some ministries literally have products that they are providing. In those cases, the economic engine can look more like a “business.” In most cases though, the engine is much more about the people who are involved in funding your work--to have the results you see--in the lives of people you serve.
There is a direct relationship between the people who get involved serving and the giving. So even though generous giving could easily be described as your economic engine, when you look deeper, it’s actually a value equation (the experience of the donors as volunteers that’s being provided) that is the driver of the economic engine. Now we are starting to get some clarity on what our strategy could be!
In many ministries, the value equation, when you really think about it and then clarify your economic engine, is a partnership; a person walking with you for a decade and the value of that. The greater value experience you can provide to that individual over the long term, the greater impact that individual has on your economic engine which drives you forward in the future.
Who are we really serving and partnering with? What is the core of what we do that addresses the value equation or the value experience? What really funds this economically in a way that works over the long-term?
Once you have these 3 things clear, you have your strategy.
To help you apply the concepts in this article, we’ve put together a simple framework for what we call a Strategy Statement, as well as some great examples of strategy statements for organizations.
To access this tool, just click here and we’ll send it to you directly!