In order to discuss strategy intelligently in the nonprofit sector, we must first understand what nonprofit strategy is and how it compares with that of the for-profit sector. Both sectors may have overlapping goals, but their primary concerns differ greatly. Performance for nonprofits means achieving the mission. Their for-profit counterparts exist to make a profit. This difference has a profound impact on how strategies for the two sectors are crafted.
This chapter from Sheehan’s book Mission Impact provides two important pieces of information: a reinforcement of the notion of nonprofit organizations’ role in society and a definition of what strategy means for those organizations. Sheehan writes in a simple and straightforward manner, citing preceding publications on the subject. We consider this to be a contemporary classic, as its recent publication date belies its timeless lessons on leadership. You may need to order this one from an online seller or university bookstore because it has limited availability in public libraries.
It is enlightening for leaders to revisit this foundational subject in order to refocus the organization on its core reason for existence: its mission. Sheehan argues against other proposed measures of performance, such as the goal approach or internal process approach. Many other elements such as programs, personnel and finance are important to consider, but these are all means to achieving the desired outcome of mission fulfillment—the unique premise of the nonprofit sector.