Achieving Strategic Clarity

An online program for nonprofit leadership teams to clarify their intended impact and theory of change

The world is changing – are you clear on your organization’s strategic direction?

Hear how senior leaders at ScholarMatch used Achieving Strategic Clarity to guide their strategic planning.

As a nonprofit leader with limited resources, you often make decisions and tradeoffs related to fundraising, resource allocation, staffing, and partnerships. How can you make sure you and your leadership team are aligned on how you will make these decisions in a way that helps you achieve your impact goals?

To guide your team in this process, Bridgespan has developed Achieving Strategic Clarity, an online program to help your executive team get clear on what you do best, which communities to prioritize, and what activities will lead to the greatest impact. 

Timing: August–December 2021
Deadline: Rolling admissions until full or June 15, 2021
Learn More


How Achieving Strategic Clarity Works


Team Workshops
Come together as a group for two hours every few weeks to discuss key issues
Total Hours: 12-18 (depending on team size)

Download sample group exercise >>

Leadership Team Icon

Individual Online Lessons
Log onto our online platform and complete individual assignments before meeting as a team
Total Hours: 10-15

Download sample self-study and pre-work >>

Individual Lessons Icon

Coaching Support
Individual and group coaching offered for Project Leads and CEOs
Total Hours: Up to 20 hours of coaching available (includes trainings, office hours, and one-on-one coaching)

Download project lead role overview >>

Bridgespan Guidance Icon

Achieving Strategic Clarity is an online, team-based program specifically designed for nonprofit leadership teams of three to six participants.

  • The program is self-paced to meet your team’s needs.
  • It is structured around three steps, each of which combines online lessons, self-study, and team workshops facilitated by a virtual coach that ultimately lead to drafts of an intended impact and theory of change, and a process by which to refine these tools over time.
  • On average, teams take 12 to 18 weeks to complete the program (roughly 25-30 hours per participant). Download a sample program calendar.
  • Your team is in the driver’s seat, but expert Bridgespan coaches provide support for your Project Lead via email, weekly check-ins, and one-on-one coaching at critical points throughout the program.

How Your Leadership Team Benefits

Achieving Strategic Clarity equips you and your leadership team with tools and a structured process to help you develop:

  • A statement clarifying which communities you aim to work with and the impact you want to have,
  • A document that specifies how your organization will achieve its impact,
  • Your organization’s unique value and qualities—your "secret sauce," and
  • Criteria that will help you make decisions about which opportunities to prioritize.

Bridgespan Toolkits for Program Alumni

These additional resources were developed and designed to help nonprofit leaders immediately begin to tackle next steps in strategic planning. As an alumnus of the Achieving Strategic Clarity program, you’ll always have access to the following toolkits:

  • Learning Plan Toolkit: Planning how you will learn what is needed to answer the questions you’ve prioritized is a wise investment to ensure there is a clear roadmap for improving your strategy over time.
  • Stakeholder Engagement Toolkit: Engaging stakeholders will allow you to build broader buy-in and gather feedback so you can strengthen and gain confidence in your intended impact and theory of change.
  • Decision Criteria Toolkit: Decision criteria provide an explicit, concrete way to ensure your intended impact and theory of change serve as living tools that will change over time and help your team hold itself accountable to the strategy you've set.
  • Bridging to Strategic Planning Toolkit: Your intended impact and theory of change should steer your organization’s work. Whether you have an existing strategic plan or are preparing to launch one in the near-term, you will want to ensure it fully reflects your intended impact and theory of change.
Leadership Team Whiteboard

Why do this work as an executive team?

We believe it’s important to do this work as an executive team for several reasons. First, having alignment on strategy, as a team, ensures that team members are all moving towards the same impact goals when making decisions and setting priorities. Second, these conversations can help build connections and strengthen dynamics within an executive team. Finally, having the full team aligned ensures that the strategic vision does not just lie with the CEO or any one member of the leadership team.

Should Your Nonprofit Leadership Team Participate?

The Achieving Strategic Clarity program is best suited for nonprofit organizations that:

  • Will soon embark on a strategic planning process,
  • Anticipate or are currently experiencing a leadership transition,
  • Are experiencing significant changes within their organizations or external environment, or
  • Are seeking to bring a more inclusive and equitable approach to their work and programs.

Note that the program is designed for executive teams and requires a time commitment of 25 to 30 hours per team member over a period of 12 to 18 weeks.

Nonprofits That Have Participated in Achieving Strategic Clarity

Aids Foundation of Chicago
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Digital Undivided
Food Lifeline
Jewish Family Services
The Kraft Center for Community Health
Millionair Club
My Path
The Senior Source

What Our Alumni Have to Say About Achieving Strategic Clarity

"There’s always a lot going on, and making time can be hard. Achieving Strategic Clarity helped us develop a practical set of criteria to make decisions about which potential projects we should take on. We now feel like we have the agency to say no to things that aren’t aligned with our theory of change."—Dave Paunesku, PERTS


"Achieving Strategic Clarity helped us pull together a working theory of change that articulated how we see ourselves and the work we do, as well as where we want to go. The program set us up for success to ensure that our strategic plan is aligned with our long-term goals as an organization."—John Peller, AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Program Curriculum

  • Step 1: Defining Your Impact

    • Team Summit activities: Over two team workshops, you’ll develop a first draft of the components of your organization’s intended impact and then refine the draft and prioritize open questions for further discussion and learning.
    • Pre-Summit assignments: You will learn about the concept of “intended impact” and individually develop a first draft of the components of your organization’s own intended impact. Once your team has developed a first draft, you will pressure test this draft through a set of individual exercises.
    • Coaching session: You'll meet with a Bridgespan coach to discuss your draft intended impact and to think together about critical open questions that have emerged.
  • Step 2: Developing a Theory of Change

    • Team Summit activities: Over two team workshops, you’ll develop a first draft of the components of your organization’s theory of change, and then refine the draft and prioritize open questions for further discussion and learning.
    • Pre-Summit assignments: You will learn about the concept of “theory of change” and individually develop a first draft of the components of your organization’s theory of change. Once your team has developed a first draft, you will pressure test this draft through a set of individual exercises.
    • Coaching session: You'll meet with a Bridgespan coach to discuss your draft theory of change and open questions, and you'll also identify potential next steps to further refine this draft and put your theory of change into practice.
  • Step 3: Putting Strategy into Practice

    • Team Summit activities: In your team workshop, you’ll outline immediate next steps to further refine your draft and to start using it for decision-making. This includes using one of the Bridgespan-provided toolkits to identify next steps and start making progress.
    • Pre-Summit assignments: You will reflect on your learnings and progress to date and review potential next steps related to research planning, stakeholder engagement, and using your intended impact and theory of change in decision-making.
  • Optional Toolkits

    Depending on your team's needs and interest, you can take advantage of Bridgespan-provided toolkits to tackle immediate next steps. These toolkits include: Learning Plan Toolkit, Stakeholder Engagement Toolkit, Decision Criteria Toolkit, and Bridging to Strategic Planning Toolkits. As an Achieving Strategic Clarity program alum, you will always have access to these resources.
Download the Achieving Strategic Clarity Curriculum

Achieving Strategic Clarity Coaches

Leslie MacKrell Achieving Strategic Clarity CoachLeslie MacKrell is a partner in Bridgespan’s New York office. She has worked with a range of clients in the fields of public health, urban revitalization, child welfare, juvenile justice, human services, faith-based programming, and education. Prior to joining Bridgespan, Leslie held strategic planning and fundraising roles at a number of social justice organizations. Leslie’s favorite parts of her job are coaching senior teams and exploring how organizational design and management practices can support new levels of impact.


Samantha Levine Achieving Strategic Clarity CoachSamantha Levine has 24 years of experience in nonprofit management, strategy, operations, and team development. Her focus has been helping nonprofit and mission-driven organizations increase their impact by getting clear on the strategic and organizational imperatives that will allow them to accelerate change. Nonprofit work can be hard, and Sam is dedicated to helping nonprofit leaders put their time and energy towards activities that best advance impact, while strengthening their organizations and teams.


  • Price: $7,500
  • Limited time price: $5,500 for leadership teams of three to six members. For organizations outside of the United States, or for teams with more than six members, please email us.

A limited number of scholarships are also available to organizations led by people of color. Learn More>>

Need help funding your participation? Learn more about how to request funding from your donors.

How to Enroll Your Team

To ensure the program is right for you, fill out this form to set up a 30-minute consultation with a Leadership Accelerator team member. You’ll hear back from us within seven days. During the consultation, we’ll learn more about your organization and leadership team, and we’ll share more about the Accelerator program. If we jointly determine that the program is a good fit, we’ll share details for how to officially enroll. We look forward to meeting you!

Still Have Questions? Read our list of Frequently Asked Questions

Which program would you like to learn more about?

Most nonprofit CEOs and executive directors have a group of direct reports who meet regularly. This "executive team" shares departmental information and receives updates from the CEO or ED about recent decisions.

The questions below are optional, but your answers will help us better understand how we can help you.


How did you hear about our Leadership Accelerator programs?


We appreciate your interest in our Leadership Accelerator programs. Please note that these programs are for nonprofit executive teams and not for individuals.

If the programs are not a good fit given your role or organization type and you would still like to learn more about our Accelerator programs, we encourage you to sign up for our newsletters or to reach out to us at [email protected].

Please click "Submit" only once to avoid duplicate requests. The confirmation page should appear in 4-5 seconds. Thank you!

The Leadership Accelerator is a series of online programs designed for nonprofit executive teams. To date, more than 100 nonprofit organizations have participated in our Accelerator programs. Learn more about our other Leadership Accelerator programs here.

Bridgespan’s Insights on Intended Impact and Theory of Change

Interested in Bridgespan’s insights on intended impact and theory of change? Read through some of our resources below.