1 min Read
November 7, 2012

Goals, Strategies and Tactics: what your nonprofit can learn from this election

Goal: an end you want to achieve.
Strategy: an idea of how the goal could be achieved.
Tactic: an action you take to bring your strategy to life.

A nonprofit’s vision and mission statement hopefully provides a clear goal, but not always the strategy for how you’ll get there. And need I say that working in an under-resourced environment (eg less staff and money than you really need) often results in tactical, reactive ways of working? Most nonprofits are so busy trying to get through the day they rarely make the time to talk about strategy.

Presidential candidates have budgets, strategists, staff, and visibility nonprofits can only dream about. We watch them advertise, email, speak for months in this practice called ‘campaigning’, and then we debrief about it. What can we learn from these campaigns despite the obvious difference in scale?

For me, the biggest lesson is about the power of a smart strategy. There were a lot of strategies layered into this race. A clip on NPR this morning with Cokie Roberts talks about one critical strategy: how President Obama’s campaign appealed to emerging voter groups (particularly Latinos, which broke 71% for Obama). It seems a lot of people, even Mike Huckabee, think Romney’s campaign failed to rally minorities.

Tactics, the actions you take, are expressions of that strategy. With a clear strategy in place you can decide where to place your emphasis: who gets what and how to prioritize. It’s hard to take the time to set up a strategy- but once you do, it helps to chart a clearer path that guides all your actions, and sets up a framework that everyone can rally behind.

So next time you are ready to launch your own campaign–take the time to explore ideas that will help you achieve your goal, speak your audience’s language and inspire them to act.