Mission in the Nonprofit World

The Nonprofit Mission

mission The first job of a nonprofit leader is to bring focus to the organization’s purpose and activities. That focus cannot be on himself of herself but on the cause the nonprofit represents. That purpose and focus is embodied in the development of the organization’s Mission. That mission needs to be one that can become operational. If not, it is not mission; it is just good intentions.

The Mission needs to be clear and direct. Too often Missions become an accumulation of words which were developed by a committee.  For example, a hospital may develop a Mission that states their purpose is to supply health care services to the community. We would suggest that this Mission must be more focused. Aren’t the only members of the community that they serve are sick people? Therefore, wouldn’t it be more focused to say the hospital’s mission is to help people with illness to recover? Making the population healthier is beyond the competence of the hospital. Treating the sick are well within its competence.

s also important that the statement not have too wide a scope. One greatnonprofit example of an excellent Mission Statement is that of the Girl Scouts of America. The Girl Scouts of America offer the best leadership development for girls in the world. It’s short. It’s about leadership development of girls and within the competence of the organization and a narrow scope.

Another great statement is that of the Wounded Warrior Project. To honor and empower wounded warriors. It’s short and motivating. Again, focuses with a narrow scope.

People enter a nonprofit occupation because they believe in it causes. It is their motivation. Unlike the business world, no one expects to have huge financial rewards. They are driven to be part of the mission. Their rewards are in the satisfaction of making a difference. It is not a job. It is a commitment.

Nonprofit leaders need be aware of losing the focus defined in the mission. So often their board or staff will find another good cause to be included. The group decides to take on a new project and another after that. Even though they may be worthwhile causes, be careful not to lose focus on the primary objectives defined in the Mission. In evaluating new projects, ask the following:

  • Does it fit us?
  • Are we likely to do a decent job?
  • Is it within our competence?
  • Does it match our strengths
  • Do we truly believe in this?

Then considering either the development of a Mission or the modification of an existing Mission, here are three considerations.

  • What are the opportunities involved?
  • What are the competences required?
  • Can we get commitment from our stakeholder?

Most nonprofit organizations make it a practice to redo, modify or review their Strategic Plan on a regular basis. It may be done every year or after a few years. A Strategic Plan has many elements including, Mission, Values, a Situation Analysis, and Goals. In a well written plan, Mission and Values should require little or no change. Analysis of the internal and external environment often needs to be revised. Both long term and definitely short term goals may need to be updated, but a well written Mission should not change. Leadership starts with a focused and motivating Mission.

managingMany of the ideas discussed in this article originated by Peter Drucker in his book, Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Principles and Practices.