Why You Need to Make Sure Your Mission Matches Your Actions

Sometimes along the path to greatness, nonprofits will encounter a crossroads.

And it’s a defining moment for your mission. Eventually your nonprofit could reach a point where you’ve had enough success at what you’ve done that you’ll be approached with opportunities for projects and services that would expand your mission, or maybe the original purpose of your mission is fulfilled.

It might hit your organization at a different time than others, but the moment of choice comes at a time where you are riding a wave of success. If this quandary affects your nonprofit, consider yourself lucky—you’re doing something right. But how you handle it can greatly impact the future direction and success of your organization.

We’ve stressed the importance of writing a mission statement to provide your nonprofit with direction and purpose. Once you get out in the real world, putting that grand statement of vision into practice can be challenging—and events happen that can change your direction.

For example, I served as Executive Director for a youth leadership development nonprofit that has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. As a result, we were presented with several new opportunities. Several of the proposals fit with our mission, and we moved ahead with them, but two other proposals involved forming partnerships with outside organizations and developing new curriculum tracts. During this discussion, we went back to our mission for guidance and cut one proposal and decided to do more research on the other.

On the other end, sometimes your nonprofit can complete its original mission. However, completion of a mission doesn’t necessarily mean that you should close your doors.

Look at March of Dimes, for example. When it was initially founded in 1938, the mission was to combat polio. However, after the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955, the effects of the disease were greatly reduced. As a result, March of Dimes changed its focus to other infant diseases and birth defects, such a rubella, premature births and spina bifida.

More likely, because your nonprofit is doing great things you will have a multitude of new opportunities available. Here are some tips to help you make sure that you stay on course with your mission and adapt when necessary.

Don’t Be a Yes Man (or Woman)

When new projects come to you, evaluate whether they truly fit with your mission. Don’t just green light all ideas that come across your desk. Create a plan for when proposals are submitted and develop a critical eye for the impact of adding new projects, tasks and fundraisers to make sure they align with your mission.

Develop a Long-Term Vision and Plan

One way to help make sure you are living your mission is to develop a long-term roadmap. This will provide a roadmap so you can make sure your organization is on track.

Both Nonprofit Hub and my organization use a model explained in Traction by Geno Wickman. This document helps set out your 10-year goals, and then works back to the present from there. It’s easy to see how the short-term objectives play into the 3-5 year goals as well as the 10-year goals. If you have a plan and vision, then it is much easier to deal with new possibilities that pop up.

Revisit Your Mission

While you are updating your annual goals, you should also reexamine your mission. Does it still ring true? While it isn’t good to change your mission often, it is good practice to regularly check up on your mission. If a major event happens (like the introduction of a vaccine!) then you can adjust and keep moving forward.

Changing your mission isn’t a bad thing. The important thing to remember is to keep doing good in the world—and by making sure that your actions and opportunities match your mission, your nonprofit will have a greater impact.


Lincoln Arneal

Lincoln Arneal was a Senior Editor at Nonprofit Hub who brought loads of real-world nonprofit experience to the team. He was the past executive director of a nonprofit that provided leadership development to junior high and high school students. He looked to bring the insights from his time forming, developing, and running a nonprofit to help others in their quest to do good. Lincoln also had a legal background and had written for various newspapers (covering high school sports) for the past 15 years. He could be followed on Twitter at @NPLNK.

February 2, 2015

You May Also Enjoy

Become a Member

Whether you’re with a large team or a solo entrepreneur looking to start the next great cause, we have a membership package that will help you grow your network and your cause.