Nonprofits often have a difficult time determining long term goals and learning how to achieve them. Here is a 4 step process that helps.
1. The Mission Statement
This tends to be too broad, too vague, and too long. Chop it up. Keep it short, sweet, and direct. It should inspire and give the long term goal of the organization. This shouldn’t outline how you’re going to accomplish your objective, just that you will. At CALVARY, our mission statement is Bringing People to LIFE Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s a win.
Here’s another good one: To connect people to Jesus Christ and to each other.
Here’s a loser: The mission of the ——— is to educate and empower families affected by —-, while advocating on behalf of those who cannot fight for their own rights. We will educate society that —- is not a lifelong incurable genetic disorder but one that is biomedically definable and treatable. We will raise public and professional awareness of environmental toxins as causative factors in neurological damage that often results in an —– or related diagnosis. We will encourage those in the —— community to never give up in their search to help their loved ones reach their full potential, funding efforts toward this end through appropriate research for finding a cure for the neurological damage from which so many affected by —– suffer.
The above mission statement is real, from a real nonprofit which happens to be doing a good work, but their mission statement is a loser.
2. The Operational Mission
This step brings the lofty, inspirational mission into the realm of quantitative analysis. The operational mission should be narrow enough to allow the organization to easily measure its impact. The work should always be measurable. The operational mission answers the following questions: What are you going to do about this problem? What is your unique role?
3. Strategy Platform
This delineates how the operational mission will be achieved, including which programs to run and how to run them. This includes client and market development, program and service development and delivery, funder and donor development, and organizational development and governance. If this isn’t developed in a disciplined way, then management thinks that every program is equally important. Let’s be real. Even in church, every program is nice to have, the people may be very nice, but some activities are more important than others.
Once the organization has the platform for supporting programs, it has to ask, “How does the program contribute to the appropriate strategy component?” Just because a program can be done and will get funded, doesn’t mean you should do it.
3 questions for the organizational leaders to ask
1. Is the core mission a statement of an important problem in society?
2. Does our operational mission contribute to the core mission?
3. Does our strategy platform contribute to our mission impact? How do we know?
3 questions for executive staff to ask
1. How effective and efficient are our programs?
2. Which programs should we add?
3. Which programs should we drop?
It you don’t ask these tough questions, you risk spreading yourself too thin. While all of your programs may contribute to your mission in some way, their collective impact may be diluted and lack focus and consistency.
It’s better to do a few specific things really well, than to be mediocre in a lot.