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Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times, 3rd Edition by Michael Allison, Jude Kaye

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Chapter 5Step 5: Theory of Change and Program Portfolio

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Your theory of change and program portfolio are the heart of your strategic plan. Everything else (e.g., money, staff, buildings, technology, and board) is designed to carry out your organization's program work. Your mission statement is your broadest definition of your ends; the theory of change provides the rationale underlying the means. Your theory of change is your organizational program strategy as seen from the 30,000-foot perspective. It is a summary statement that makes clear the ways your programs work together; in other words, the theory of change is an overarching answer to the question, “How are we going to accomplish our mission?”

Your program portfolio is the collection of programs through which you carry out your strategy. Just as an artist's portfolio is a collection of her artistic work and is intended to represent the artist's talents and accomplishments, or an investment portfolio is a collection of investments that together are selected to accomplish your investment objectives, your program portfolio is a collection of programs that are designed to work together to achieve your mission. Each element in your program portfolio must make a critical, necessary contribution to the organization's overall theory of change. Individual, disconnected programs do not create a whole that is greater than the sum ...

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