How does the board ensure the organization is mission driven?

A mission-driven organization is one that is constituent-focused at every touchpoint. Your mission may be defined in terms of providing exemplary service, or developing products that meet and exceed the needs of your target audiences, or both.

A mission-driven strategy can be a framework to help your board align your programs and services with the values and priorities of your organization. But how do you ensure your board is using this framework effectively?

First, the executive director and the board should establish a guiding mission and vision that reflect the organization’s constituency. This will require careful research and strategic planning. It’s important that the executive director and staff support the board with the research they need in order to develop an informed mission that positions your organization appropriately and sets you up for success.

Once established, board commitment to driving your mission forward at every opportunity is essential. Such a commitment helps everyone in the organization create a solid operational structure, a strong organizational identity and effective communications and fundraising strategies.

Here are three tips to ensure your board keeps your organization’s mission top priority:

  1. Develop opportunities to keep board members communicating. Members should be engaged in moving your mission forward. Keep the line of communication open between board members and the executive director to ensure buy-in at all levels and a shared understanding of your common purpose.
  2. Ask the board to regularly review communications and fundraising plans to ensure they tie in with mission and strategic goals. This keeps them tied into critical organizational activities and ensures the mission is top of mind for everyone. Be sure to follow up on their suggestions for improvement.
  3. Don’t let your mission “drift.” Potential support from large donors or corporate sponsors can sometimes result in taking on programming that is not in line with your mission. If growth means a potential shift, do your research and plan your strategies before you make the leap.

To guard against an unclear or misguided mission, ask yourself:

  • What is the social benefit gained by our organization’s existence and how important is it?
  • Does our mission have meaning for stakeholders, or is it just boilerplate for grant applications?
  • Do we know our organization’s competitive advantage, and who our constituents are?

Source: Mission-Driven Governance, by Raymond Fisman, Rakesh Khurana and Edward Martenson.

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