Assessing Risky Strategies

Just got off the phone with an organization I’ve been advising for years.  They are, like some others, in a panic due to a reduction in their state grant….resulting in a loss of 55% of their income.  Yes, it’s a crisis, but it’s one of the most predictable crises imaginable.  Their work is tangential to core education, so was always likely to feel the ax….and when the financial meltdown came in 2008 I thought it would provide the motivation for the Board to take some risks in order to diversify funding. 

Although we looked at several projects and concepts, the Board never was willing to move in a new direction.  For them, Business As Usual was the strategic choice…and now there’s hell to pay.  In the end, the Board was always reluctant to strike out on a different path lest they encounter failure.  It was easier (and more comfortable) just to keep on what they were doing in the past.

I’ve said it over and over and over, The Status Quo Is Not An Option.  So how can you encourage your nonprofit to open up to new possibilities.  I find a facilitated discussion of these five questions extraordinarily helpful:

  • Why is this risky?
  • Why is our new initiative better than doing nothing?
  • What’s the worst that could happen if we fail?
  • Even if we fail, what can we learn from the new imitative?
  • Is there expert opinion about our initiative?  What do these experts have to say?

If you’re working with your Board on strategic discussion which will really push the boundaries of the organization, try these questions.  You’ll make progress.


  1. I think I know which organization you're writing about here.

  2. yes sue, I know which org he's talking about


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