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See GivingDNA in action alongside your peers in fundraising. Tour the Platform on 5/26/21 @ 12pm CDT.


It is incredibly difficult to go somewhere new and unfamiliar without directions. Yet as leaders that’s exactly what we’re called to do. Without a strong strategy in place, you will have a really tough time achieving your desired outcome.

While developing a strategy is essential to success, it’s not necessarily “mission accomplished” from there. Executing a strategy can also be incredibly difficult. In fact, it’s where many organizations run into trouble. According to this Harvard Business Review article, two-thirds to three-quarters of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies.

Four Common Pitfalls That Can Sink Your Strategy

If you have a plan in place, what could prevent you from achieving your desired outcome? In other words: Why do strategies fail? Here are four common reasons—and what you can do prevent them:

  • Your organization isn’t aligned to execute the strategy. For example, are you relying on generating revenue from a specific area that doesn’t have enough manpower or support? Are you maximizing your gift officers’ portfolios to set them up for success? Make sure all the pieces are in place to move from strategy to outcome. Don’t underestimate the importance of coordination.
  • You are more committed to the strategy than to the result. Oftentimes leaders are more concerned with checking off boxes and following the plan than with reaching the goal. This is one reason we’ve championed the idea of approaching fundraising with a compass rather than a map. The strategy itself is not your goal; achieving the desired outcome is your goal. Be “intelligently agile” with your strategy.
  • You assume everyone understands the strategy. Assumptions are dangerous because they’re often wrong. Educate all your team members about the overall strategy and their specific roles in executing it. Focus on not simply communicating your strategy, but making sure people understand it. Every employee should be able to answer the question: What is the top objective of our strategy?
  • You’re relying too heavily on your senior leadership team to drive the strategy. A top-down approach generally only works in the short term. A key reason for this is that it prevents employees at every level from being active and engaged in your strategy. The best approach is to have distributed leaders execute your strategy throughout your organization.
Are You Prepared to Effectively Execute Your Strategy?

Just having the GPS in the car will not take you to your destination. You still have to accelerate, brake, and steer the vehicle—as well as deal with any roadblocks or detours you may encounter along the way. The same thing is true with your marketing and fundraising. Crafting your strategy is only the beginning; you also have to be prepared to execute it.