Essential #1: Determine the Mission and Purpose of the Board
What Should Be Contained Within
the Board Mission Statement?
The board’s mission should be
a clear and well-documented definition of what is
expected of the board as a whole, and the requirements for each member. If you
don’t know how to create these expectations for your own board members, you
should get help in doing so. This is one
of the absolute KEYS to a successful nonprofit board. When board members
don’t know what is specifically required of them, what they are accountable for, it becomes a difficult task to
measure or evaluate their progress and success.
Of course a primary objective
of any board which should be included in every board mission, is accomplishing
the goal of providing the financial resources needed to fund the support of its
constituent individuals, groups and/or communities it exists to serve. Thus the
mission answers the question “What actions will the board take to guarantee
that successful campaigns are organized and launched to secure capital,
endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting funds. This provides a good topic to
illustrate how a board mission statement is used to back the mission of the
organization as a whole.
If the Organizational Mission Statement Includes
people around the world with a $25 loan” (part of the mission of Kiva, a
The Board Mission Statement Could Then Include:
the Board of Directors as a whole ultimately responsible for achieving this
mission through providing support of organizational marketing efforts and also providing
that ensures that lender capital is always available to fund customer loans”
What Questions Must Be Answered
In The Board Mission Statement?
So the board mission describes
WHAT the board exists to accomplish; it essentially asks the question, “What is
the board’s reason for existence?” Unlike the organizational mission, it is
meant to describe the means, not the ends, of the nonprofit’s board. It is the
how, not the why.
And unlike the agency’s overall
mission, it should be noted that the board’s mission statement is not designed
or revised with direct input from all constituencies. The board needs to define
their own mission. Your own statement should also not be arbitrarily compared
to the board missions of other nonprofits either – favorably or unfavorably. Recognizing
your own unique characteristics and impact on the individuals and groups you
serve is vital, so this rule is true no matter how much the apparent
similarities of your two organizations might be.
Just some of the questions that could be addressed or answered
when creating the board mission statement are:
are the established boundaries, or “bounds” of the service to be delivered by
the organization – and how the board will accomplish their delivery?
the language used in your mission statement elevate effort to effect? Words
such as try, seek, influence, or encourage suggest exertion that focuses on
achieving the results noted in the organizational mission.
the measure of the value of a nonprofit’s service is often much harder to
define than a commercial business, how will the successful delivery of these
services and resources be evaluated?
your mission accurate - or does it seek to glorify your organization’s
intentions to make yourself sound better, loftier, more extensive or
“glamorous” than you truly are?
your board mission too broad or too narrow? Does it allow for growth and
expansion, but also narrow enough to keep the board clearly and strongly
focused? Does it try to be “all things to all people”, or on the other hand
restrict the organization from meeting changing needs?
your board mission statement use VERBS? If so, is the mission statement really
focused on what needs to be done to support goals, instead of the outcomes of
the actions, like the organizational mission should do?
to Using Verbs, Does Your Board Mission Statement Use Nouns that Signify
Activities – the “Means” – Instead of “The Ends”? Examples Include Advocacy,
Education, Program, Service, and Others.
Your Board (and also Organizational) Mission Statement a Direct Embodiment of
the Founder’s Own Vision and Ideas, Typically Based on Personal Experience or
Passion? This is “Founders Syndrome” – Where All Others Largely Play a Passive
Role, and not nearly as effective.
Your Board Mission Use Technical Language or Jargon That Are Meaningless to the
Your Nonprofit a Federation or Another Type of Membership Organization? What is
the Net Value that You Add?
Does Your Board Have Authority Over Other Boards?
Your Board Mission Statement Focus on How You Will Accomplish What is Unique About
Your Organization? How Will Your Board Ensure that You “Stand Above the Crowd”?
Crafting a board mission
statement can be a formidable challenge for an organization, but with the right
assistance it can be crafted in a way that answers all (or at the very least,
most) of these questions. And of course not only will these points of guidance
aid in the writing of a new mission statement, they can also be used to
revision and rewrite an existing one just as easily.
Unless you have an
experienced writer within your organization, you will most likely need an
expert consultant to facilitate the basic mission development process with you.
Engaging an experienced nonprofit consultant and writer who will fashion the
document for you based on your input is of great value to your organization and
your board. They can provide the “outside” opinion and perspective that can be
critical when crafting both your organizational and board missions.
To succeed in today’s
nonprofit “marketplace” - along with volunteers, audiences, donors, and staff -
a nonprofit organization must be able to attract high quality board members. Creating
an effective board mission statement that outlines responsibilities and
expectations can go a long way towards proving the serious focus of the board
and their mission.
Your board mission statement
is most successful when it clearly and firmly guides the board in making
effective decisions about the organization’s future. It motivates and
challenges board members to achieve well-defined and shared goals. It is the board’s
responsibility of leadership to see to it that the organization always operates
within the confines of its mission.
Why Is The Board Mission
Statement So Important?
The board mission statement should directly
support the mission of the organization, allowing for an action plan to be put
into place that is clear, achievable and that board members can be held
accountable for. This is a key to every consultancy that I do personally; no
session or meeting should end without a detailed action plan to be implemented,
so that board members know what they are supposed to be doing. Once again, this
ties the board members in unity and clarity – and can help eliminate the issue
of simply “chasing money” and thus moving the agency into areas that fall
outside its stated mission.
When done correctly this process is of great
benefit to the overall success of the organization and will certainly have a
strong impact on its long-term sustainability. We should note that this concept
of documentation and accountability included here are also addressed throughout
this entire series, especially so when we reach Board Essential #8.
With a well-conceived and crafted organizational
and board mission statement, the first and most critical step in the process of
building a successful nonprofit board has been achieved. But also as noted this
is a process that never truly ends for the best nonprofit agencies, as their
mission statements are periodically reviewed to ensure that they continue to remain
true as guiding forces that can move the organization forward.