Category Archives: Strategic Planning , Development & Deployment

Views from a strategic mirror


The NPO Strategic Mirror is a convenient tool for senior leaders of nonprofit organization to better understand how — or whether — the organization’s strategic planning and deployment are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

This strategic directions profiling and self-assessment resource is based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997, 2001, 2014), and was most recently used by Norwich University as a tool  to review and assess strategic planning by Vermont charitable-philanthopic-nonprofit organizations.

The answers sought on the questionnaire are related to and focused on those management actions, activities, and competencies that senior NPO leaders have identified as contributing to their successes and those of their organizations.

The NPO Strategic Mirror is a strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool created by Dr. Tracy Connors based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997/2001) and rankings provided by senior NPO practitioners during the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2014).

About the Strategic Mirror assessment

The actual assessment can be completed in a few minutes by those who are familiar with the organization’s strategic plan and/or related materials. The resulting data can become the focus for analysis, and serve as a form of agenda for any meetings focused on the subject.

The Strategic Mirror assessment and review process helped participating organizations to better understand their organization’s long-range vision, goals and objectives and how these are aligned with the operating environment.

The data collected and developed during the assessments used a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It is designed to provide macro level insights into the strategic planning process and documentation, and to do so in the three overarching management domains that represent the organization’ operating environment.

The reviewer – external or internal to the organization – can make a determination about the presence of a management function or action, and the extent to which it seems to be effectively used within the planning process to improve effectiveness or efficiency. The reviewer then assigns their determination to a broad Likkert scale range to generate quantitative data that is then available for other useful purposes, e.g., basic statistical understandings.

The data collected can help provide a broad measure of understanding about the use of these management actions and activities within the organization’s planning processes, how that use compares with other nonprofits, and how the organization’s use of these potential tools within its strategic planning process may change over time.

Need to improve NPO capacities directly linked to improved mission fulfillment

The future of America’s quality of life, in many important ways, depends on the quality and quantity of human services provided by its more than 1 million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations. America’s C-P NPO’s are under continuing and growing pressure to improve their Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability, and Transparency (E/EAT). These pressures and proddings are increasing, a process some have called the “tides of reform.”

C-NPO’s must improve and increase their organizational capacities in ways that are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

Strategic planning is one of the most critical competencies self-sustaining C-NPO’s attain and practice.  However, the results and outcomes achieved as a result of an organization’s strategic planning and deployment will depend on the extent to which the plans reflect and incorporate those management actions, activities, and results that research has identified as among the strongest contributors to organizational performance improvement and mission fulfillment.

Strategic Mirror aligns strategic planning with management actions contributing to performance improvement

“Views from a Strategic Mirror” is a research-based charitable-philanthropic organization self-assessment tool designed to help leaders, managers, and practitioners identify the extent to which strategic planning and related future-focused management processes reflect the incorporation of specific management actions and outcomes that are major contributors to overall organizational performance improvement in the three overarching management domains – Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Transformational Organization.

VSM helps C-NPO leaders conveniently and quickly review and compare their organization’s strategic plan and related documents.  The Q&A process provides a convenient reminder of the management actions and/or outcomes that have been strongly correlated to overall organizational performance and success by research and practice. The VSM provides the “mirror” that helps reflect the extent to which the planning process has included and focused on those management/leadership actions and outcomes that are closely associated with organizational performance improvement, and the extent to which the organization has incorporated those contributors to excellence and mission fulfillment into its plans and practices, and used them to define strategic results and outcomes.

Next: Reflections Before the Mirror

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2016, October 17). Views from a strategic mirror [A strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool for charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations created based on the self-renewing management model.]. In NPO crossroads: management domains and outcomes. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC:

© Copyright 2016 T.D. Connors


What’s In A Name: the future

Many of the words we use everyday have been used for hundreds, even thousands, of years by countless generations of our ancestors, most of whom spoke a language derived and descended from Indo-European – the prototype of the majority of the world’s languages spoken today.  Researchers at Reading University concluded that such words as “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” are words that have been used for tens of thousands of years, and are among the most ancient of words now in common use (BBC News, 2009).  Researchers determined the more often we use a word, the more slowly it changes over time.  Therefore, our most commonly used words tend to be our oldest words.  When we use a word with great frequency, it clearly has great value to us and communicates important information.

These findings would certainly apply to the word we use to identify, describe, or distinguish one thing from another.  When we designate something in a way that expressively classifies it according to some combination of distinguishing characteristics, we give it a “name.”  Since the term “nomen” appears in Indo-European and means “name,” we get a sense for the importance of the word “name,” and the role it plays in our language (Morris, 1981, p. 871).  A “name” can be a name, or it might be a designation, denomination, title, appellation, nickname, sobriquet, cognomen, or moniker.  What few can bear is the inexpressible, indescribable horror of being “nameless.”

What’s in a name?

When any nonprofit organization is established, its founders give serious attention to its name.  Typically, the name provides a great deal of information about its mission and purpose.  Nonprofits work hard to earn public recognition and respect for the good works performed by their members, staff, and volunteers – all of which contributes to its name recognition, which in turn is a significant factor in its ability to sustain public support, solicit donations, and attract members and volunteers.

There are times in the lifecycle of a nonprofit organization when its leadership is faced with the need to consider changing its name – the subject of this posting focusing on major change efforts.

Volunteer Jacksonville to HandsOn Jacksonville: a mini-study

Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc.,  was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Florida in 1973 (Corrick, Hannan & Fanning, 1973), and granted exempt status as a 501(c)(3) public charity by the IRS in 1976.  The organization’s original mission was that of serving as a clearinghouse for volunteers – a place where individuals could find opportunities through which they could serve their community, and where nonprofit organizations could obtain assistance and retaining volunteers for their programs.

By the 1980s, Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc. had grown into a management resource and support center for nonprofit organizations, as well as fulfilling the responsibilities as a volunteer center.  However, what we would now term as “mission creep” led to a flurry of organizational focus, coupled with significant revenue decreases from the organization’s primary funding source.  For many years there was a persistent sentiment, eventually substantiated by an externally prepared marketing study, to change the name.  By then, “Volunteer Jacksonville” did not accurately describe what the organization provided in the way of public services (Smith, 2006-2010).

In 1998, following extensive planning and development, the organizational model was changed and Volunteer Jacksonville refocused its mission and vision on a single primary customer, “the person whose life is changed because of work that is done–the volunteer” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2010).  Since then, the organization has also made significant changes in its business model, integrating a direct project management model with the ongoing indirect clearinghouse/brokerage model, that enable it to increasingly focus on: the volunteer; preparing volunteer leaders and managers; conducting volunteer projects; and on what it terms “impact imperatives” in such areas as education, economy, environment, and emergency preparedness.  Impact imperatives projects have also enabled the organization to help restore schools as centers of the community, alleviate poverty, preserve the environment, and prepare the greater Jacksonville community for potential disasters.

In 2006, in a significant move that symbolized the organization’s refocused and revised vision, Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc. changed its name to HandsOn Jacksonville, Inc. – “to reflect our conviction to change the world by inspiring, equipping and mobilizing the people of our community to take action” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2008).  Explained in the context outlined by Carlson and O’Neal-McElrath (2008), the process followed by the revitalized HandsOn Jacksonville, can be seen as both a structural and an engagement strategy.

The organization clearly re-examined its mission, realigned the organization more in line with the revised and refined mission, then adopted a revised mission, one better suited to the organization’s need to respond to rapidly changing conditions – and opportunities.  The change also enabled them to refocus the organization’s culture and to reengage all of their stakeholders in supporting the improve mission, services, and message.  Further, the name change provided an opportunity and a catalyst to engage with other nonprofits both local and national to establish supportive, collaborative, and cooperative initiatives improving funding support and organizational effectiveness.

For some nonprofits, including some aspects of the HoJ initiative, the process of changing the name is part of an overall organizational rebranding effort, that can include a new strategy, name, logo, color scheme, and website design (Hrywna, 2009).  A brand is not simply the organization’s name or logotype.  Rather, the brand represents, collectively, how that organization’s clients, customers, stakeholders, volunteers, staff, and the general public view the organization, i.e., its overall reputation and standing (, 2011).


Durham (2010) applies the term “Brandraising,” as the name for the process of establishing a coherent, cohesive organizational identity, coupled with a comprehensive communications plan and system that supports these goals, thus making it easier to articulate the organization’s mission and purpose effectively and consistently.  A nonprofit organization’s strongest asset is its brand, and branding includes all of the processes involved in establishing a clear, consistent message about the organization – the goal being to create such a strong association between the organization’s logotype or name that when the public sees or hears them they will think of the organization’s mission and programs in terms defined by the organization (Nissim, 2004).

The objective when branding products, Strand (2010) says, is to establish an association between the product position and the consumer’s self image.  In the case of a nonprofit organization, the difference lies in the fact that the association is developed between the values of that organization and the corresponding values of that organization’s supporters.  For example: “We connect and engage people in service that addresses serious social issues… We make people aware of the issues that face our community, equipping them with hope and tools that empower them to create change” (HandsOn Jacksonville, 2009, p. 2)

What’s a name worth?

The nonprofit’s name and brand play an important role in the organization’s ability to generate future revenue and resources.  What the organization stands for should be uncompromising and absolutely clear to the public.  As reported in the Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100, the top nonprofit brand in the United States is the YMCA, whose brand is worth $6.393.6 million.  Other top nonprofit brands in the United States include: the Salvation Army, United Way of America, American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries International, and Catholic Charities USA (CNBC, 2009).

References: (2011). Whether Marketing a Corporate Brand or a Branded Product or Service, Success. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from and DNA Designed Communications Ltd.:

BBC News. (2009, February 26). ‘Oldest English words’ identified [Some of the oldest words in the English and other Indo-European languages have been identified, scientists believe.]. In Science & environment. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from

Carlson, M., & O’Neal-McElrath, T. (2008). Winning grants: Step by step. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

CNBC. (2009, June 26). New report values America’s 100 leading nonprofit brands [As the nation copes with the economic crisis, the value of nonprofit brands are revealed for the first time”]. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Intangible Business Brand Valuation:

Corrick, G. W., Hannan, P. I., & Fanning, D. S. (1973). Articles of incorporation [Volunteer Jacksonville, Inc.].

Durham, S. (2010). Brandraising. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

HandsOn Jacksonville, I. (2008). VIRE Grant Application [Volunteer impact, retention and expansion (VIRA) grant].

HandsOn Jacksonville, I. (Author). (2009). HandsOn Jacksonville 2009 Report to the Community (J. A. M. Smith, Ed.).

HandsOn Network. (2010). Volunteer impact, retention and expansion grants: Grant application (Instructions and guidance). Retrieved from

Morris, W. (1981). The American heritage dictionary of the English language. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nissim, B. (2004, October 1). Nonprofit branding: Unveiling the essentials. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from GuideStar:

Smith, J. A. M. (2006-2010). HandsOn Jacksonville, Strategic Management Plan (Revised). Jacksonville, Florida.

Strand, R. (2010, November 6). Smashable nonprofit brands. In Branding. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from Ezine@articles: