Strategy with Collaboration


What does your organization need to look like in 3-5 years?   How do you get from where you are now to where you need to be?  What is the current status and future forecast for the needs you seek to address?  How can your organization better accomplish its mission in the coming years?

Whew!  Such relevant questions and all important to the structure and performance of your organization.   Reflective practices and strategic planning have become ingrained in the foundation of nonprofits yet are they being used effectively and efficiently as possible.

The most effective organizations have been able to excel in partnership with other sectors and organizations.  Incredible opportunity awaits at both local and global levels for positive problem-solving and community solutions.  Working across sectors is a way to achieve your organization’s goals and also address challenging issues facing our society and communities. Your organization is working to deal with big issues, and these issues are impacted by social and economic forces your organization doesn’t control. In order to do effective cross-sector work, there needs to be constant communication with people and organizations who work differently than you do, and who use different language and processes.

A Toolbox for Creating Collaborative Strategies

One part of the organizational toolbox that creates coherent communication between sectors is a solid strategic planning process.

In any solid strategic planning, there are two strong components:

1)      Assessing the current reality at organization-specific and industry-specific levels

2)      Creating an actionable plan for the future.


Assessing key stakeholders about organizational performance and mission capability.  Gathers information and contextual knowledge that give you the answers to these questions:

  • What are your organization’s current capabilities?
  • What are prevailing attitudes and opinions that various stakeholders hold about your organization?
  • What are major strengths and weaknesses of your organization that impact its mission effectiveness? What are the key barriers at your organization to greater service capacity and effectiveness?
  • How might your organization access significant resources and other needed assets to meet its goals in our community?


The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that your workplace develops the following:

  • Baseline knowledge prioritization to create a business plan that increases organizational mission effectiveness to move your organization steadily toward its sought outcomes;
  • Best practices that quickly and efficiently develop the Board of Directors;
  • Best practices that quickly and efficiently develop the Staff; and
  • Quick wins that have a big impact in your organizational environment to generate additional resources and capability.


A strong assessment drives creation of a clear and smart plan.  And, as evaluated by your inner circle, a clear and smart plan is an enormous part of harnessing this critical core’s interest and energy, exponentially increasing the achievement of your objectives.  The strategic planning process both gathers information from your inner circle, and gets them on board: they become part of the planning process, and they develop an understanding that a larger shift is happening, thus they are ready to help you with those next steps.  Strategic planning  is a way of bringing people and organizations, who may not have felt so invested in the past, into your inner circle.Business SWOT Analysis


Leaders Creating a Cohesive Culture



Creating a cohesive culture is essential to create top-level performance.  To create that cohesive culture systems and structures have to be put in place to make sure that the organization is functioning at its peak.  There are many pieces that are essential to create a well-performing organization:  strategy, strategic plans, goal setting, human resource systems and practices, performance management plans, initiatives and programs, volunteer engagement, public relations, media outreach, and let’s not forget —fundraising.

Developing an organizational system to manage and coordinate these distinct parts can lead to a cohesive culture throughout the organization and ensures that your work is relevant to current internal and external conditions.  A cohesive culture in nonprofit organizations can be a large shift for some because the human systems of the organization are usually working very hard to respond to the pressures of real daily needs.  However, when specific organizational pieces are not working well or are inefficient, other parts of the organization and performance may be affected.  To sustain highest performance, all these systems must work as a team, including your board and staff.

A Cohesive Team

When searching for new board and staff members, look for those whose values are congruent with your organization.  Board and staff members should also have good technical skills, be team players and have a willingness to help others.  Qualities of passion, determination, and transparency are also important, as they are key in creating an environment open to new ideas and substantive growth.  When a group has genuine passion, it becomes apparent to those around them; these organizations are known for their authenticity and deep desire to serve.


Another helpful way to ensure successful team building is to work with individuals or groups with whom you have previously partnered.  This kind of repeated interaction will strengthen preexisting ties and provide a relationship on which your group can depend.  Establishing mutual trust between your organization and professional networks will give you resources to connect with in the future.  Effective team building can also be achieved by providing your staff with opportunities for new experiences together.  Create a sense of camaraderie among your members by providing ways to bond outside of the typical work environment.

Organizational Learning Culture

Each individual has a unique communication style. Based on the needs of the individual you are conversing with, you must frame your message by considering format, diction, tone, duration, content, etc.  Reshaping a message to fit a specific audience is not a quality that comes naturally to everyone though, which is why communication skill training can be so helpful.   Ensuring that the respect, clarity, and common purpose you intended shines through in each interaction is crucial to organizational performance.  Managers, directors and others in positions of power have control over creating a workplace that encourages open discussion and confrontation.  True leadership clears the deck, removing barriers so performance can shine.

The stream of human and societal need is often so strong that the tasks required for survival every day may not represent your best thoughts about how to solve the issue you exist to represent.  Thankfully, there is an entire industry devoted to improving organizational systems to increase performance and speed.


Steps to Creating a Cohesive Culture through Strong Leadership

One of the most important and pervasive systems is the culture of the organization.  Some time-tested pieces of developing culture that often benefit by the involvement of a consultant include taking time to carefully define the core values of the organization and working with appropriate members of the staff team to create mental models that can be applied to all aspects of your organization.  All employees of the organization are responsible for reflecting the agreed upon organizational principles.  Tools such as 360 degree interviews will reveal that making just a few tweaks can alter an entire dynamic.  When one understands the true nature of a problem, effecting change is a much more direct process.


When seeking to create a cohesive and effective board and staff, mental models are a useful tool for representing the organization’s ideal behaviors, attitudes, and standards. These models should clearly convey expectations, whether explaining how to interact with coworkers and peers or how to correspond with donors.  Maintaining communicative consistency will demonstrate, especially to donors, professionalism and uniformity.  Studies have shown that teams who make use of mental models more frequently interact with one another, are more inspired and optimistic about work, and are more objective. Sharing mental models has many benefits, but be wary of potential groupthink.  To prevent such harmful homogeny, encourage staff and board to engage in a certain degree of conflict by challenging the process and thinking for themselves.  Giving individuals skills to manage this conflict is an important part of the supervisory process if the skills do not exist in the current toolbox of the employees.

Strong emotional and organizational intelligence are features that permeate healthy nonprofit organizations.  Organizational intelligence is developing the competency to be able to make quick shifts that change with the needs of humans and society.  Emotional intelligence is defined as identifying, assessing and controlling the emotion of oneself, of others and of groups.  The strongest organizations are those who are constantly checking the current status of the issue they address and reevaluating whether their goals are congruent with that status. Benchmarking yourself against the universe of need is a sure path to organizational relevance.  With the big picture as the organization’s guidepost, strong emotional and organizational intelligence support and competency development (along with the right hiring process) are very useful to drive performance.




Looking for Supporters in the Right Place

Inner Circle

Many nonprofits feel alone. You work hard, are limited by available resources which often don’t meet a growing demand, and you have the challenge of both managing an organization, and running multiple programs to provide services. To carry out your mission, you need to do all of these things well.

So where are the supporters who can help you carry out your mission? The people who care about your issue may not know about your organization. But by using targeted, data-driven strategies, a good consulting firm can facilitate introductions of your organization to its most likely supporters in the community you serve.

You can also get support in creating prioritized, actionable relationships with people on your current database who clearly care deeply about your organization. Your organization may not be seeing how strong a champion and supporter some of your current supporters could be, with the right cultivation. Relationship-building takes time and intent, and there are a series of steps to take, but you already have invaluable relationships. The key is to recognize them, and then take the next steps to gain even more support for your mission.

Eno River Consulting can help you grow your inner circle significantly, and help your inner circle interact and engage with your organization in highly personalized ways. This way you can accept the many contributions that they want to share with you, on their terms. Relationships, time, and money are shared freely when people and organizations support you and have a clear path to engage.

Keep in mind this helps your organization, but you are also providing something of great value to your supporters. You are simultaneously connecting them to the community, and through engaging with your group, you are giving them a vehicle that supports their own values and priorities. There are people all around you who care for the same mission you exist to serve. Together your mission will take root in the world.

Shift your attention away from your programs for the moment, and focus on the true intent of your organization. This is what other people care about – the people, the animals, the art, the education, etc. Your inner circle includes corporations, government, and major donors – even if you don’t know who they are yet – because you and those entities have shared values and goals. These individuals and organizations have an infinite capacity to help you advance the mission of your organization.  Without them on board, you will forever be Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill.  With them, you can truly fulfill your mission in a larger way than you may believe is possible.

“So, where is my inner circle?”

They are in whatever geographic area you serve.  They already exist, but they won’t engage until you talk with them. And they will only stay and grow their involvement when you 1) relate to them the way they expect, and 2)  maintain communication with them in the way that works for them.

“I have too much to do already with my existing inner circle.  The staff, the board…there is so much to do.”

Yes, you have a lot to do. But, consider seeing your organization as two different, yet parallel, organizations.  One organization exists to ensure that your programs and activities are driving the results you want on that front.  The other track (or organization) exists solely to connect others to your mission and to communicate effectively with them about the ways they can help you. This second track facilitates the involvement of supporters in all the ways that help you achieve the solutions to the issues your mission focuses on. This may look like connecting people with volunteer opportunities in your nonprofit, and at other times it may include higher-level conversations around policy or culture. A good, strategic consultant will help you to think very “big-picture” and create a plan for connecting with your expanding inner circle in a variety of ways to draw supporters in and keep them engaged and invested.

What does the future look like with the inner circle?

The right people are just outside your doorstep. You have the resources you need, and you know where to go. People are helping you with your vision, and their assistance means your perspective is consequently greater than what you can visualize on your own. You see more opportunities and take advantage of relationships and issues you may not have seen on your own, and didn’t have the time or connections to develop alone. Money comes from places you didn’t see before, and other people have helped you ask for it. And your ability to achieve your mission expands exponentially because people are helping you by bringing opportunities, and by doing key pieces of the work.


So, Your Organization Needs More Money

A wise nonprofit gathers data continually, throughout its existence.  Every financial contribution it gets is recorded accurately with complete contact information.  Here is a little-known fact: past supporters have the strongest relationship with an organization, and are the first people to approach for a fundraising campaign. You may know this, and yet not grasp how true it is, or how powerful your current relationships can be.

The gifts made of any size during a fundraising campaign are a direct result of how well a nonprofit is “answering” the deepest desires of its supporters and investors.  To successfully raise money in a fundraising campaign, the nonprofit must “answer” the interest – and initial investments – of its supporters with thoughtful, helpful information about aspects  of the nonprofit the investor cares most about.

When a nonprofit interacts authentically in an emotionally connecting and appropriate way, and with business intelligence with a past supporter or investor, that person feels a strong connection and loyalty, and often continues their giving – and can increase it greatly. Conversely, when an organization does not do these things, or doesn’t do them often enough, it loses contributions from that supporter, and over time it often loses that relationship as well.  When this happens, since you don’t “see” the actions you didn’t take, you are unaware of the lost contributions, and unaware of the lost relationship. Many nonprofits miss huge opportunities because they are busy doing the program work that carries out their mission.

This dynamic happens over and over again in nonprofits of all sizes. 

You may think you are just making an “ask,” and even that your supporters don’t want extraneous communications from you. But the fundraising cycle shifts considerably if you recognize you are also “answering” the need of your donors – their need to participate in their community, their need to be a part of the solution for challenges they care about, their need to contribute. The better you “answer” your donors after a gift of any size, and continue to engage them, the more invested they become in your organization as a positive solution to their needs. In a complex world, people recognize that the way to make change is through collective action. Your organization is actually a solution to your supporters’ needs. The more you recognize this, the greater the resources – and dollars – you will find yourself with, to carry out what you see as the real work of your organization.

The solution? Nonprofits must be able to “answer” their supporters and investors after the investors have responded to the first ask.

You would probably love to focus on your mission without the time consuming process of fundraising and managing an organization. Nonprofits are charged with a huge role in our society – aligning similar entities with common visions and values, to solve major social issues that impact the health and happiness of our nation, as well as economic development and commerce. This is a substantial charge, especially when nonprofits often lack “infrastructure” (systems and staff) necessary to effectively carry this out.

In many cases, an organization of 3-5 FTE’s are in charge of a major goal for a state or region.  In the resulting rush of tasks that must be done for the average nonprofit organization and its programs and clients, raising money is often one more thing on a very long list.

In these cases, it is wise to borrow the knowledge of the corporate sector. Businesses often pay for specialized services, because it is more effective to use someone else’s expertise than develop that expertise within your organization. You often bring in a lot more money when you hire out a part of your fundraising.

Fundraising is a sign of participation and investment in a nonprofit organization’s work for those that give time, money or expertise charitably at any level and through any mechanism.

Many nonprofits are surprised to learn how people that have already supported them at a modest level can actually help to transform the nonprofits service to the community with their insights, their social or business network, or their financial support. These past supporters may not have mentioned or offered these resources to you, but they are there. And the way to start harnessing them is to begin with an information-gathering process.

It is best to start the fundraising process by better understanding who supports your organization and why they support you.  Armed with that information, nonprofit organizations can better adapt their messaging to increase the community’s support.  In addition, nonprofits become much smarter organizations, because they understand their strongest supporters. These supporters are really some of your customers.  What an incredible model – people who are willing to pay for your services, even knowing they are not the direct “recipients” of your services. The process of learning who your supporters are, and why, is the first step to developing a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

It is important to understand that terrific fundraising happens because many other mission critical parts of your organization are going well. Investing in fundraising means investing in the vision, performance and results of your organization.

What we can do!


Specializing in fundraising, leadership and board development, strategy and sustainability, and performance and data, Eno River Consulting builds the capacity of nonprofits, corporations, foundations, government agencies and their leaders so their organization can better fulfill its mission and create positive transformational change.


Effective nonprofits bring key supporters together and leverage collective strengths and resources to achieve their organization’s goals.  Eno River Consulting can help you do this – whether your goal is to increase the effectiveness of the services you currently provide, improve your service delivery and outcomes, or raise more money to support your work.


Eno River Consulting helps you to strategically build and maintain relationships with partners who share your passion. As a nonprofit leader, your effectiveness will skyrocket as you master both the “ask,” and the “answer.” When you ask the right people for the right help, you develop an inner circle of the right key supporters. And you answer both key supporters, and a broad and diverse group of individuals and organizations who care about your vision and values. You find those who share your vision and keep them continually engaged.