How The Great Books Foundation is working with Prosper Strategies to put the Nonprofit Impact System™ in place and accelerate its impact.
Since 1947, the Great Books Foundation and its Shared Inquiry method for discussing literature have been a mainstay in discussion groups and schools nationwide. However, as shifts in the political and technology climate began to transform the education landscape, the organization’s long-term sustainability was called into question. While many educators knew and appreciated the Great Books Foundation for its approach to teaching students to engage in civil discourse through literature, some began to question the pertinence of its content and approach to modern readers.
As the organization embarked on a new era with new leadership in place, they knew it was critical to find the right Focus for the future and bring it to life with a transformational strategic plan, marketing strategy, fundraising strategy, and effective systems and processes. That’s where Prosper Strategies and the Nonprofit Impact System™ came in.
Prosper Strategies has conducted a vast amount of research for the Great Books Foundation to establish the organization’s Focus and inform strategic plans, marketing strategies and fundraising strategies. We conducted an organization assessment where we reviewed the organization’s current and past strategic plans, messaging, marketing, and fundraising materials, and measurement approaches. Then, we conducted an ecosystem assessment, where we looked into other education and civil discourse-focused organizations that the Great Books Foundation is often compared to in order to establish where they could differentiate themselves in the minds of its stakeholders. Finally, we conducted a stakeholder assessment, which helped us build a deeper understanding of the various stakeholders the organization needs to influence, including teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders and more.
Our research revealed that some stakeholders confused the Great Books Foundation with a literacy organization, when in fact they use books and literature as a tool for teaching shared inquiry and civil discourse, not reading. And while several other organizations take a similar approach, most work only with youth. No other organizations in Great Books Foundation’s comparative set build critical thinking, leadership, and social and emotional skills for people of all ages or integrate into every facet of public life, including schools, workplaces, and communities. We encouraged Great Books Foundation to make that unique differentiator its reason for being and the center of its Focus as an organization.
Then, with that new focus in mind, we worked with a variety of internal and external stakeholders to reimagine the organization’s mission and vision, which you can see working versions of below, and to reassess their core values.
These Focus elements built upon earlier brand identity work, including a logo redesign completed in 2016 and a brand rollout overseen by Prosper Strategies in 2017.
Our Strategy work with Great Books Foundation has spanned a variety of areas, including:
- Strategic planning: Prosper Strategies has brought together internal and external stakeholders to assess the organization’s biggest priorities and opportunities, and build a plan for pursuing them that involves every member of the team.
- Marketing and communications strategy: Prosper Strategies has facilitated the marketing planning process with Great Books Foundation staff. We have also led the development and execution of a media relations strategy that has garnered coverage for the organization in outlets ranging from CBS News to Edutopia.
- Fundraising and development strategy: Prosper Strategies has worked in partnership with the Great Books Foundation’s President and CEO and Development Director to build a fundraising strategy and relaunch the organization’s approach to development.
- Program design: Prosper Strategies has helped the Great Books Foundation think through the weaknesses and opportunities associated with its various programs and offerings. We have also helped the organization launch a new program to bring its Shared Inquiry approach to businesses and organizations while generating earned revenue: Inquiry in Action. Together, we are currently exploring new avenues for partnership and growth.
Additionally, as COVID-19 has called all past plans into question, we’re currently working with Great Books Foundation to determine where they need to pivot or evolve their strategic plan.
Throughout our four-plus years of work with Great Books Foundation, Prosper Strategies has worked in lockstep with the organization’s leadership, staff and board. We have also encouraged the organization to find more opportunities to bring in external stakeholders for input, including students, teachers, administrators and business leaders.
As our partnership has evolved over time, so has our incorporation of the People element of the Nonprofit Impact System™ in our work together. As we go through another round of strategic planning activities with the Great Books Foundation, we are now taking new steps to help leadership assess the organization chart the Foundation will need to achieve its goals for the future and to strategize about the best ways to leverage every team member’s unique skills and interests.
To date, we have helped Great Books Foundation staff develop systems, processes and measurement practices for its marketing and communications and fundraising work. Now, in our next round of strategic planning activities, we’re working to help leadership put a system in place for measuring objectives and key results organization-wide, as well as for measuring impact as it relates to three areas of their mission: critical thinking, leadership, and social and emotional skills. The organization’s influence in these three areas can and should be measured, and we’re currently working to align the right tools and approaches to make that happen.
Over the course of our four year partnership, the Great Books Foundation has achieved a variety of remarkable milestones. For example, the organization pulled itself out of a downturn to have one of its best financial years ever in 2019, developed and launched a suite of digital products to warm reception from schools, and entered the corporate market with Shared Inquiry training for businesses and organizations. Our work together continues as Great Books Foundation builds upon its past success with a new strategic plan for 2020 and beyond.
Could Your Organization Benefit from Similar Results?
Contact us to tell us about your needs and learn how a partnership with Prosper Strategies can help your organization achieve its goals.