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Are Roadmaps Good for Nonprofits?

You may have heard nonprofit CEOs say; we don't need a roadmap; we've got a strategic plan. 

Bruce McCarthy, the advocate for product roadmaps in a time of uncertainty, asks leaders who poo-poo roadmaps: 

How do you know where you're going?

Unsurprisingly, nonprofit leaders turn to consultants for strategic plans to reach audacious goals like healing the sick, educating the next generation, and replenishing the earth. A nonprofit consultant will help your organization understand the changing landscape, identify hidden opportunities, and share their strategy with everyone who will make a difference (your stakeholders). 


Nonprofit CEOs turn to consultants to help them answer a crucial and challenging question: 

How will we serve our constituency? 

Once you've created a way forward, your strategic planning consultant must leave you with a tool to share your vision and invite essential conversations with your board, management team, and donors about where the organization is headed. That tool is a roadmap.

Do you have a strategic plan but no roadmap? EV Strategic Partners can help you.

Roadmaps are more than glorified lists

Don't confuse a roadmap with a business plan or a to-do list. Bruce McCarthy calls these details "all of the what and none of the why." A roadmap is more than program activities tied to dates. 

Plans are terrific for managing outputs like increasing the number of students in aftercare programs by the summer break or the amount of corporate sponsorship dollars year over year. What makes roadmaps different than a list of actions, assigned staff, and dates is what a roadmap manages. A roadmap manages what you'll be able to do with more corporate sponsors or what more engaged students mean for the community you serve. With a roadmap, you're looking toward outcomes, not deadlines. 

Calendar with diagonally placed red pushpins
Roadmaps aren't dates and details.

You want less of this and more of that.

Two coworkers are talking over colorful stickies.
Good roadmaps align stakeholders.

Nonprofit CEOs can use a roadmap to identify dependencies, synergies, and potential conflicts. Like a U.S. highway map with every major rollercoaster marked with a gold star, every possible route begs a conversation about time, resources, advantages and disadvantages, and why go at all. 

How do you know you have a good roadmap?

A good roadmap won't be gathering dust like a sacred scroll. You'll want to look at it. As a visual representation of your organization's reason for being, where it's headed, and how it'll achieve your mission, your roadmap could look like nothing you've ever seen. 

Picture brightly colored stickies on the conference room wall that you walk by daily on the way to the breakroom. Your roadmap could be a dynamic vision board that changes on the big screen at every strategic meeting. Maybe it's a graph displaying a bright arrow pointed toward a mountaintop at the top of every manager meeting agenda. 

You may not know how exactly you'll solve your stated problems, but you can add possible solutions. More than a set-it-and-forget-it exercise, a roadmap is a launching pad for experimentation, which requires your stakeholders to align.  

A good roadmap will make sense to you and your team. It'll be useful.

A useful roadmap facilitates stakeholder conversations about what's important to them and the direction of a program, project, or organization. 

One more thing. A good roadmap's elements differ from those of a plan. Your roadmap doesn't contain all the steps, deliverables, and deadlines that a plan would. Instead, a roadmap focuses on objectives or what problems your organization intends to solve.

Contact EV Strategic Partners and start your journey the way you want to end it with the help of a good roadmap for your nonprofit.

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