The Strategy Pyramid

All nonprofits and foundations function on three levels, as shown in the pyramid below: organizational, programmatic, and operational.

Each level has its own set of strategies.

Organizational Strategies: At this top level, strategies are formed in response to trends or opportunities that may impact your nonprofit’s ability to advance its mission, whether positively or negatively. Examples of organizational strategy include:

  • Expanding services to a new geographic location to increase mission impact
  • Merging with a provider of complementary services to better serve the community

Programmatic Strategies: Strategies at the programmatic level are intended to increase your organization’s programmatic impact. Examples include:

  • Adopting a new clinical approach that will more effectively address client needs
  • Partnering with another organization to provide programming to underserved groups

Operational Strategies: At the base of the pyramid are strategies aimed at enhancing your nonprofit’s administrative efficiency, preparedness, and execution. Examples include:

  • Developing a new model for staff recruitment, training, and performance management
  • Implementing a new donor management system

Unlike in the real-world, the Strategy Pyramid is best built from the top down. First you must determine the organizational strategy that will set your overall direction. Then you can make programmatic choices that will support this direction, which will in turn dictate the operational requirements of the entire enterprise.