The Nonprophet Advisor

Thoughts and observations on nonprofit management from a communications and executive professional with 30 years of experience.

Mission Possible

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Too often, organizations forge ahead into plans for marketing and new businesses before clearly defining their objectives. A simple brochure or a few Tweets might provide the needed boost in donations to fund the organization or build a following on the Internet, or so the thinking goes.

Yet, leaping before thinking will likely result in disappointment, and worse, the wasting of precious resources. A good plan is required before moving to implementation, and a good plan begins with a clear mission.

Examples abound of organizations that once knew where they were going, but failed to adapt their objectives to changing circumstances. Their leadership moved into different areas, often in pursuit of funding, that departed from their original purpose. The Board lacked the insight to focus on a single purpose.

Over time, results bring almost inevitable disappointment. There are demands to change course immediately and perhaps cries for quick solutions. But without the essential element of redefining the mission, all of the effort will result in just further disappointment. A ship without a map will never reach its destination.

If the organization's leadership and staff are aligned, the efforts will bear fruit. Refining the mission is not necessarily a Herculean task. Perhaps, it's just recasting the old mission in new light and terms that are more relevant. Or the environment has changed but the organization's mission has remained stuck in its old thinking.

The amount of work needed to bring about the necessary change depends on the degree of consensus in the thinking of the leaders of the organization. If there is general agreement, a powerful mission statement can be readily developed. If the discussion surfaces deeper problems, the process requires additional resources. The fact that these problems emerge goes to the heart of the organization's difficulties, and it can't expect a change in results until these problems are resolved.

Once there is clarity on the overall objective, the job of developing a plan to market the organization gains clarity, paths open and opportunities emerge. Capturing those opportunities becomes the next step in the marketing process.

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