Strategy as We-Care: An Exercise | Beth's Blog

Strategy as We-Care: An Exercise

Happy Healthy Nonprofit

Note from Beth:   My colleagues at See3 had some fun using some of the ideas in The Happy Healthy Nonprofit  and apply it to creating an organizational digital strategy. This post shares a useful exercise for your digital team to reflect on what not to do for your digital strategy!

Strategy as We-Care: An Exercise – guest post by Miriam Brosseau, Director of Engagement, See3 Communications

Organizational self-care needs a strategy, as we all learned in “The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit.” And it’s true! (And something we take seriously at See3.)

Simultaneously, a sound (digital) strategy can be the biggest driver of “we-care” in the organization. Here’s the deal —
Every nonprofit gets told that they need a strategy (and you do). But you know what’s even more pressing?
Simply deciding what you *don’t* do.

And that’s 80% of strategy, really. (Though, admittedly, the other 20% is where the fun and the magic happens.) Setting healthy boundaries.
Sound familiar?

Take a moment to look at the self-care checklist in The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

● Taking lunch away from desk and email
● Not working on the weekends, or over vacation
● Taking comp time when earned
● Setting limits in client relationships

You see what I’m getting at? Healthy boundaries. Saying no. Stopping.

Most of the time, we burn out because we’re just doing too much. And more than that, we’re getting caught up in the wrong things (the tactical treadmill, as we sometimes call it at See3 – the near-constant upkeep of digital channels driven almost exclusively by external expectations and not by internal motivations or goals).

So, the first step in strategy as we-care is to figure out what those right things are, and get rid of the other junk.
Easier said than done, for sure. But here’s an example and tool to help play that out —

See3 recently facilitated a workshop for a national nonprofit working to align its chapters around a signature program – everyone was doing it differently, which is no way to scale (and no way to work). The lack of consistency amounted to a lot of wasted time and effort, and a lot of overtaxed staff and supporters. Everyone saw the missed opportunity in a program that, with more cohesion and focus, could not only double the revenue it brings in for the cause, but provide some much-needed support to the folks working tirelessly to make it happen.

So, at one point in the course of the workshop, we did the following storytelling exercise with them to start figuring out the right things to be doing and set the program strategy – to delineate its healthy boundaries. (We did it in terms of this specific program, but the exercise could be done for a digital channel or any other aspect of an organization):

Name your audience. Think of one person. Describe them in detail – what do they care about? What do they worry about? What draws them to this program, channel, event, etc.?

Set your goal. But in a specific way: Name the following four outcomes: after engaging in this experience, what do you want this particular person to:
○ Know – what new information will they have? What will they have learned?
○ Do – what new, specific action will they take?
○ Feel – what emotion do you want them to walk away feeling?
○ Belong – after this experience, what sense of fit or connection will they gained, and with whom?

Draft strategic elements. Looking at the list above, what are a few key things that *have to happen* over the course of their interaction/experience (during the event, while on the website, etc.) in order to reach those outcomes? Be critical and make sure you’re considering what really leads to the above outcomes, rather than squeezing what you’ve always done into a new framework.

Tell a story! Tell a first-person, best-case-scenario narrative that hits on all of the elements above. (In the workshop, we used a fill-in-the-blank sheet with prompts specific to the event, which included things like, “The first thing I noticed was…”; “I’ll never forget when…”; and “I knew this was the place for me when…”) This is the heart of this exercise, so don’t skip it over. Storytelling is all about communicating impact (which is what we’re all going for, right?), so the key here is to unlock the story that your audience will walk away telling. Then you can then design the experience for that story.

● Ok. Now the fun part. Read the story (out loud, with gusto!) and notice what themes come to the surface. What really matters here? What does this mean you can *stop doing*? What’s currently part of the experience, but not adding to the impact/outcome? Essentially, what didn’t make it into the story?

● Now the hard part. Stop doing that thing (and see if anyone complains – or even notices).

This exercise is best when done in groups, telling several stories, accounting for several audiences, so you can draw out broader themes and build connections and consensus. But it’s something you can test with any aspect of an organization to help set healthy boundaries and stop doing the stuff that a) doesn’t contribute to the impact, and b) burns you out. It allows you to focus in a human-centered way on what really makes a difference, so you can start setting effective strategy and stop chasing tactics that, frankly, just wear us all out.

There’s an odd sense of relief when you realize that a program element that is a logistical nightmare, or a complicated web platform that never quite functions properly…are actually things you could (and should) drop entirely. For one group in our workshop, they realized that the impact of the program was almost entirely in the opportunity to connect with the families their organization served – and not at all in the five food trucks at the event (needless to say, they didn’t make it into the story). So…why not just have one food vendor and save the trouble, time, and lost sleep?

Now, of course it’s never that easy. There’s always more to consider – buy-in from leadership, culture, legacy, etc. And that’s different in every organization, and should be approached with care.

But here’s the point: Just as self-care needs to be a strategy, strategy itself can be organizational (and personal!) self-care. And it begins – first and foremost – with stopping.

If you’re ready to push pause and reset your digital strategy, contact Michael Hoffman ( and the See3 team today.

Miriam Brosseau, Director of Engagement, See3 Communications

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