The Gift of Perfectly Popped Popcorn
February 06, 2019

The Gift of Perfectly Popped Popcorn


You spent a lot of time and allocated a lot of resources to build your strategic plan. You met with dozens of stakeholders, hosted community conversations, and considered hundreds if not thousands of ideas before settling on a final path.

But since you’ve started down that path, how often have you stepped back to consider what you’ve learned along the way and if your impact matches or exceeds your intentions?

Don’t worry — you’re not alone. Often times, it seems more important to stay-the-course and continue down the planned path than making sure you’re still on the right one. It’s even harder to think about starting over – and how do you even begin to know if it’s the right path, anyway?

What if you were hiking down a trail and someone stopped you and said, “I’ll give you $100 to pause and think about if this is the best trail for you.” Would you do it? Of course you would! And thanks to the Gift VII from Lilly Endowment, you’ve just been given a golden opportunity to do something similar for your organization and the community you serve.

Evaluating Your Progress: Time to Pivot or Preserve?

Think of your strategic plan like microwave popcorn.

If you’ve made microwave popcorn you know that when the pops slow down to every 3 seconds, you better get that popcorn out before it burns. Just like that magical moment with microwave popcorn, taking a step back to evaluate your effectiveness can be critical to your success.  

How to Avoid the Burn

  • Schedule quarterly evaluation sessions — it’s important to step back on a regular basis and consider what you’ve learned, what has changed, and when it’s time to pivot.
  • Ask: what evidence (hard facts, interview data, observations, etc.) do we have that indicates the solution we deliver will solve the problem and achieve our goal? Are your programs or those you fund resulting in new improvements in the community?
  • Watch for: people who become too attached to their own programs or solutions. We know that it’s hard to move away from a solution that seems to be doing good and is well loved by staff or community members. However, your current solution might not have the greatest impact on those you hope to serve – if so, it’s time to look in the mirror and pivot if your solution isn’t providing enough value or creating impact in the way you intended.
  • Seize the opportunity of the Gift VII Leadership Grantthis is a rare chance to apply for funding to help support thoughtful analysis and self-reflection. It’s almost like the gift of a magical fairy who stops the microwave for you! We are certain you will end up with the most delicious bowl of popcorn you’ve ever had.

You can do this!

We know it’s tough for social impact sector organizations to do. It takes a brave leader to ask the organization to honestly assess  your strategic plan goals to see if the organization is on track – and not just vanity metrics. What impact are you having and on who? What could be done differently? If things are working, how might we further the impact?

We are here to support leaders and teams working towards real answers to the tough questions about lasting community impact. Whether this means co-creating quarterly evaluation meeting agenda, collecting data to measure impact, or facilitating team, stakeholder or community conversations, we can help you get started. Our clients see great value in our objectivity, facilitation of ideas, and partnership around solutions (whatever they may be!).