Oftentimes, nonprofit professionals like Executive Directors, Program Managers, and other program staff are hired into an organization to manage an existing program. Time is always a constraint – so you just jump in and start doing. While simply keeping things moving may feel like progress, the harsh reality is that the hurried movements and decisions void of pausing for any real strategy are likely doing your organization more harm than good – and most likely cost money, too!
Zooming out means to take the 100,000 foot view of your organization’s work. You do this by breaking down the actual pathways of delivering your programs and services – from that first dollar in all the way to the change in someone’s life that happens because of your program. When you regularly zoom out, you create space for you and your team to connect with the core purpose and intention of your programming.
Effective nonprofit teams build in time to regularly zoom out, and take a bird’s eye view of their work. Building the internal infrastructure to understand and measure the value of your programing at each step along its pathway will not only get your team into the habit of zooming out – it will help you build a culture of continuous improvement, get better at delivering your services, and become more efficient. As an added bonus – funders will notice your ability to use data and strategy to improve your work, and your program will begin to stand out from others.
Zooming out aims to help you gain a deeper understanding of your program’s core purpose and intention.
Zooming out really just boils down to asking some basic questions about your program’s purpose. Here are a few examples of components you may include:
1. Where are you at now?
This gives you an accurate baseline for where your organization is at in terms of its ability to connect the day-to-day with the big picture. How does your program currently function logistically?
2. What is the change your program is trying to make in the world?
Simply put, what are you doing, who are you doing it for, why is it important, and how do you know what you’re doing actually makes a difference?
3. What is your commitment to equity?
How has historical and structural racism, classism, and inequality contributed to the problem you’re trying to solve, and what information do you need to know to make sure you are living into your value of equity?
These are just a few examples of ways your organization can start zooming out. Remember that gaining exceptional clarity on the purpose of the program itself is a critical first step before you can make decisions about what comes next and there will likely be many factors you must consider in order to get a full understanding of the bigger picture.
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