Friday, September 14, 2007


Setting and ensuring direction of the organization is one of the most critical responsibilities of a nonprofit board. In fact, I’d say it is the ultimate role, from which everything else emerges.

Most of us are not present at the birth of our organization. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to be in the position of defining a nonprofit’s purpose and the vision of a better world if we succeed. Most of us enter board work committing to an existing mission and to doing the work that moves the organization closer to its fulfillment. Hopefully, we’re also taking time periodically to re-examine and reaffirm (and update, when necessary) that mission.

It can be challenging to keep the board’s focus on mission advancement amidst the “urgent” details of organizational life. But it’s essential. Board members provide leadership in asking the questions: How is this program/initiative moving us closer to our mission? What progress are we making toward that mission? How can we make the most of opportunities while minimizing challenges to forward progress? Are we good stewards of ALL of our organizational resources – are we using them as effectively as possible toward our mission?

Make a point of posing mission-related questions regularly in board work. Include a “mission moment” in each board meeting, highlighting a project or recognizing an individual or group making a particularly important contribution.

Be good guardians and advocates for your nonprofit’s mission.

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