The two terms can often be used interchangeably, but they mean different things when it comes to decision-making and goals; they play different roles.
Strategy is what you want to achieve. It is a big goal you set.
If you are a non-profit, your strategy might be to raise $100,000 at your next fundraising event. You've got a big number that inspires you and drives you forward.
A strategic thinker may get excited about that goal and want to go out and do it while that excitement is there. This energy is essential because it is infectious and can motivate your board. However, a board full of strategic thinkers is likely to fall short of the goal because they haven't taken the time to do the math to figure out how they can reach that $100,000 target.
Tactical decision-making is focused on the plan rather than the goal. It focuses on how you plan to achieve your goal.
Someone who is a tactical thinker is excellent at doing the math but might get hung up on the details and want to adjust the goal to be realistic. They're the person who says, "But we can't charge X because we've always charged Y."
Tactical thinkers are essential to defining the details of how you will achieve the goal, but a board full of tactical thinkers will get trapped in analysis paralysis.
How to Harness Both Strategy and Tactics for Your Non-Profit
Strategy is what you want to achieve. Tactics are how you plan to achieve it. When it comes to decision-making, they balance each other out because your plan is both motivating and well-thought-out.
If you have strategy without tactics, you don't have a well-thought-out plan that accounts for possible issues. If you have tactics without strategy, you will find yourself adjusting the goal down to account for your tactics.
Let's look at an example.
Let's say you have a goal to raise $100,000 at your next fundraising event. The first thing you do is look at your table cost. You realize that you have 25 tables at your event, and you're selling them at $2,500 each, so you're only raising $62,500 there.
Strategic thinking keeps you focused on your big goal. Instead of getting too stuck on the fact that you've always had 25 tables or always sold tables at $2,500, your focus is on raising $100,000. Your board can start looking at ideas like:
The strategy keeps the conversation going instead of abandoning the plan when a tactical concern is raised.
Tactical thinking allows you to do the math to see what your costs and prices need to be in order to raise $100,000. This gives you a blueprint that, if followed, will raise $100,000. It also identifies any problems you may face and adjusts the plan accordingly.
How to Review Your Fundraising Events Using Strategy and Tactics
Both strategy and tactics are also valuable when reviewing your fundraising event's success. It is easy to say that you fell short of your goal and, therefore, the tactic didn't work.
A common example of this is Golden Ticket Raffles. We recommend non-profits take down paddle numbers when selling Golden Ticket Raffles to reduce the barriers to giving. Donors often have a drink, a canape, and their bag in their hand, so you risk them not giving because they don't want to fish for their wallet. Taking down their paddle number is a hands-free way of giving.
We sometimes hear non-profits who tried this and decided to go back to ask donors to pay for tickets when they buy them because 1 or 2 people out of 100+ didn't pay for their tickets. Using strategy allows you to see that you still raised $9,900 from the Golden Ticket instead of focusing on the fact that 1 person didn't pay.
On the other hand, looking at the fundraising event from a strategy perspective means that you only focus on whether you hit your fundraising target or not. Tactics allow you to see which elements were successful and which weren't so that you can raise even more money at your next event.
Watch our podcast for non-profits to learn more about decision-making and board politics.
Subscribe to stay up to date with new articles, webinars, and podcasts!
At HGA, we're dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations Raise More Money through coaching, auction items, and auction software.