Intended Impact & Impact Strategy
Many organizations use their mission statement to provide direction, but these statements are often broadly written, resulting in little direction to leadership in setting priorities or strategy. As such, there must first be a shared understanding among board and staff of what the overall organization aims to accomplish. Therefore, before digging into strategic imperatives and priorities, organizations must clearly articulate impact and understand how it accomplishes this impact.
A Nonprofit’s Beacon
It was the author Lewis Carroll who wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” For nonprofit organizations, the “where you’re going” translates into the impact you hope your efforts will accomplish. A statement of intended impact answers this question for an organization.
Stanford Social Innovation Review defined intended impact in their Fall 2004 article, “Zeroing in on Impact” by Susan Colby, Nan Stone and Paul Carttar:
Intended impact is a statement or series of statements about what the organization is trying to achieve and will hold itself accountable for within some manageable period of time. It identifies both the benefits the organization seeks to provide and the beneficiaries.
Intended impact is different from the mission statement because it is more specific. It is not constrained by the requirements that a mission statement be succinct and inspiring. Rather the intended impact is supposed to be realistic. It can be ambitious, but it should be attainable.
Articulating intended impact is an opportunity to share leadership; we typically engage board and staff through surveys and facilitated conversation allowing everyone to see themselves in the statement. Ultimately, the intended impact will be a beacon for the organization, from which strategies for impact and sustainability can be drawn.
Theory of Change
The impact strategy for an organization, also known as a theory of change, is a graphical depiction of the strategies it either undertakes, plans to undertake or believes are necessary to accomplish its intended impact. The document helps organizations prioritize resources and stay focused on how best to accomplish their mission.
The impact strategy helps connect the big-picture with individual programs, helping to answer questions like “How do we accomplish our mission and impact?” and “Why do we perform this activity?”
Typically, Spectrum facilitates an in-person session through which relevant personnel will create the organization’s impact strategy; along the way, Spectrum aims to cultivate a community culture that can support this strategy.
At the conclusion of our work, the organization will have tools to monitor impact and align programs and finances as the organization learns from implementation.