In our work with organizations almost every leader tells us that their primary challenge is capacity. They say something along the lines of, “we have so many ideas and so much opportunity, but we just don’t have the staff and budget to get it all done.” But what’s interesting is that we are hearing this from leaders of organizations across a huge range of sizes and budgets. Whether it is an org of one full time person, or scores of people and millions of dollars, their leaders all say, “if only we had the resources of [fill in the name of the organization one tier up] I know we could do it.”
Sound familiar? This isn’t a criticism. We do what we do because we are driven to go beyond what feels possible right now. We are change makers, people who get up every day to try and make the world a better place. And the truth is, all the money in the world isn’t going to make all our challenges go away.
The trick is structuring our work so that we can make progress on our challenges with the resources we can access, without depleting our teams and our reserve funds in the process. The key to doing this is to have a solid strategy, with clearly articulated goals, an image of what success looks like, and a path to getting there.
Especially in the world of communications, where the audiences, messaging, and channels to fill can feel endless, we have to focus our energy on the work needed to reach our goals, rather than the work that is right in front of us, or the newest, or the most popular among staff.
We’re not saying it’s easy (although our GAME plan can help). We’re saying creating a thoughtful strategy is the only way to start making your vision of a better world a reality. Because without it you can spend all your time chasing more and more resources to expand capacity and never increase your impact.
Strategic organizations and movements use the resources they have to create wins—however small—that generate excitement and support that they can use for future wins.
Look at the story of KaBOOM. Inspired by the loss of two kids who died playing in an abandoned car, Darell Hammond built a playground in their neighborhood. Realizing that kids all over the country need safe places to play, he could have been overwhelmed, but instead he looked for the next win. He used the resources he could leverage from the first project to build another playground. He formed KaBOOM, and eventually figured out how to organize the money, people power and know how that he did have to build more opportunities for healthy play. Instead of building the size of his organization, Hammond focused on building a movement, strategically honing in on developing tools and insights that can be shared with anyone interested in building a safe place for children to play. KaBOOM’s supporters drove the work, not its staff. Now they have built 2000 playgrounds and attracted the attention of VIPs like Michelle Obama and Queen Latifah.
While it can be frustrating to have more ideas and dreams than you have the time or money to realize, it’s also a blessing. It gives you something to work towards and something to fight for. If we all do what we can, and what we do well, while focusing our energy on the goals we’ve set, we will be a more efficient and effective machine of progress that will make the world more fair, free, and green, one campaign at a time.
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Amanda Cooper is a LightBox collaborator who believes working with a thoughtful strategy can turn your vision of a better world into a reality.