The lens of mission must guide everything that a Board of Directors decides in an organization. Everything.
Board members are the vanguard of the mission. They develop it; they refine it, and they ensure it. They ensure that the organization is meeting the needs of those that they serve through assessing the community during a strategic planning process, then evaluating current services to ensure that there is alignment between need, mission, and programs.
A mission statement is nothing to be taken lightly. It is the very essence of who your organization is and as such, such be deliberate and thoughtful in its crafting. Mission statement crafting or refining is not something undertaken lightly. In most cases, in happens in tandem with strategic planning. Once a mission has been crafted or revised, the Board should use this mission in all that it does through its governance role.
Whether making a financial decision or a programmatic one, the mission is the lens by which organizations make all their decisions. Let’s take funding for instance. I have seen groups who will actively seek funding dollars, not based upon the mission, but because they are in need of monies to run the organization. And, then when they receive the money, they are not able to provide adequate services. Or, other agencies which are religious in nature that begin to solicit and accept government funding, and then when mandates come down from the federal and state government, these organizations find themselves in precarious moral and ethical quandaries because they have now engaged in these types of contracts.
Programmatically, I have witnessed groups who have started programs or provided services to new constituencies without a thorough discussion centering upon the mission. Then years later, they are serving populations that they never set out to help and wonder how they have moved so far from their core.
Mission. For Board of Directors, this is the lens through which they should make all their decisions. Every strategic governance issue or question should also start with an analysis of the situation through the mission.
Will this particular change impact our mission? If it does, what does that mean? If it doesn’t, should it? How do we remain faithful to our mission? What does it mean to be true to our mission? Should we accept this funding or will it lead to “mission creep?” Do we serve this new population in need or is there another organization who can better meet their needs?
And, yes, sometimes our missions are met. Horrors of all horrors, what happens when we meet our mission. Sometimes that means a group ceases. But, in far too many cases, we think that our organization should go on forever. But, yet we were all started in some senses to alleviate social conditions. What does it say when we never allow ourselves to get there.
Mission. Don’t over gloss the importance of it. And, don’t forget to use it as the lens of every decision made within an organization. It is just that critical.