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Redefining Vision

Amy Schiffman and Stefan Teodosic
February 8, 2021

This past November, Stefan and I sat screen to screen on our fourth Zoom call of the day, talking about how many of our nonprofit clients feel “stuck”. This feeling is the result of a pandemic that forces us to rethink our plans and strategies for 2021, and yet, at the same time, makes it impossible to plan. So instead of diving deeper into this sea of frustration, we decided to think hard about what we can do to help. And what came out of the next several conversations was a desire and a plan to help clients and friends think differently about possibilities and opportunities. The process by which we hope they’ll do this is visioning.

We have been programmed in the nonprofit sector to equate “vision” with “vision statement.” Think Jerry Maguire, up all night writing a booklet about his life’s purpose. But this process is something bigger, more creative and more comprehensive than a vision statement. And it is the precursor to every strategic plan, every feasibility study, and every large scale campaign.

A vision is a story. A guiding star. It enables organizations and groups to agree on compelling goals, breakthrough strategies, and aligned action. An organization’s vision is an overarching set of goals, without the roadmap to get there (that comes later).

An organization’s mission answers questions about “who we are” and “why we exist”. The vision tells stakeholders, staff, and donors “where we’re going” and “what we hope to achieve”. If you don’t know where you are going, and there is no vision that looks to the future, it’s extraordinarily difficult to develop a strategic plan that defines what you need to do to get there. 

In the nonprofit sector, organizations with clear visions are the ones that inspire donors, unify stakeholders, and raise substantial amounts of money. 

Here are 6 signs it’s time to get your vision checked, and we don’t mean a trip to the eye doctor… 

  1. You always thought a vision was just a vision statement.
  2. Your work looks wildly different than it did one year ago.
  3. You’re questioning whether a particular project or set of programs really fits into the bigger picture of your work.
  4. Making decisions about how to move forward has become increasingly difficult for your organization.
  5. You are balancing feedback and differing opinions from key stakeholders about the future of your organization.
  6. The constant change and shifting gears over the past year has left your team feeling misaligned on your priorities, and you’re not sure how to get back on track.

If you relate to one or more of these statements, it’s likely you are ready to define your vision (or revise your current one). 

Let me tell you a secret about organizational visions: everyone has one, whether you know it or not.

Next week, we’ll talk about the benefits of a strategic visioning process and how it will impact your organization, especially in tumultuous times.