How to define your organization’s unique value

In my last post, I discussed how a theory of change can help your organization to focus its mission. This is the result of better defining your organization’s unique niche within the system in which it operates.

But how do we identify our organization’s unique value proposition? What parameters can guide us to determining our unique niche within the system? What will tell us how we can be most effective at creating the change we wish to see?

There are three components to a unique value proposition:

  • The benefit you offer to your constituents
  • How you are solving the problem
  • How you are different from others

The first describes the good stuff you do or provide, while the second identifies how that good stuff actually responds to the need and solves the problem you’re tackling. The third point is about how you distinguish yourselves from others working on the same issue, whether it be in approach, methods, or focus (thematically or geographically).

The theory of change is critical for laying the foundation of understanding about the problem, the other actors in your problem space, and the difference approaches to solving the problem and creating your vision.

Then when it comes time to define an organization’s unique value proposition, I ask questions around three areas:

Competencies. What is your organization good at? What skills and technical expertise does your staff bring to the table? What have you accomplished in the past as evidence of this? And conversely, what are you not good at? In what areas are you weak that you are less likely to be successful? Where have you not been successful or where have others been more successful than you in the past?

Need. Sure, you may be good at something, but is it needed? When you look at the system in which you work, do your strengths align with one or more areas that will contribute to transforming the system? How does your work make a significant contribution to solving the problem in the long run? How is what you’re doing today going to make it easier for people tomorrow? And conversely, in what ways does your work not solve the problem? What other approaches are needed that you will not do or that you are not prepared to do?

Position. So you’re good at something, and that something can help solve the problem, but is this something that others are already doing? Is what you’re offering different from what is already being done? If so, can you define and demonstrate those differences? Conversely, are there areas of need where others are not intervening that fit your competencies? Is there something that needs to get done that no one else is doing and you could do successfully? Could you adapt your organization to do what’s needed?

By looking at what an organization can do well, how what it does affects change, and its positioning relative to others, it becomes much easier to understand the unique value proposition. This in turn makes it easier to attract support for your work, because it is important, effective, and unlike anything else out there. And who wouldn’t want to support a worthy cause like that?

Do you know your organization’s UVP? Do you have a clear theory of change that helps you understand your organization’s purpose and positioning? How would understanding your organization’s UVP help you with your messaging and fundraising?

If you’re interested in developing a theory of change that does all of the above, check out The ToC Workshop, a special eight-week program designed to help you get the most out of a theory of change for your organization.