Managing Your Nonprofit Like a Business – Part II

The Mission Statement

The Community Benefit Organization’s sole purpose is to have a societal or individual impact. A well thought out mission statement should be a motivating factor that will encourage:

  1. Donors or Grantors to contribute financial resources.
  2. Prompt prospective volunteers to give of their time and effort.
  3. Engender a sense of organizational identity and loyalty.

The primary function of the mission statement is to:

  1. Maintain organizational focus on the mission.
  2. Drive the planning process.

In essence, the mission statement defines the CBO’s ultimate purpose, objective and reason for existence.

Designing The Mission Statement

All mission statements should contain three principal characteristics:

  1. Achievability
  2. Competence
  3. Commitment


The CBO’s objectives must be achievable. An idealized but unrealizable vision does no good. There must be a realistic chance that events can take place that will lead to success of the mission. Every nonprofit’s mission must, in theory, be theoretically, potentially and probably achievable.

The mission statement does not have to represent goals that are sure to be achieved, but they must be possible and to a high degree, probable. The mission statement should communicate to all stakeholders that, “It can be done!”


To have the likelihood of success, the CBO must have the ability to acquire resources that will enable it to accomplish its mission, and have the ability to carry out the responsibilities related to mission fulfillment. The mission statement should reflect the competence of the organization to actually achieve its mission goals.


No mission can succeed without the commitment of all of the organization’s members. The mission statement should communicate the commitment to achieve its long-term objectives and say, “We will do this!”

Every mission statement should be for the long-term and be written in a manner that it need not be changed throughout the life of the organization. Should the mission itself change, or if the organization needs redirection, then the phraseology can be changed.

The mission statement should be concise. The CBO’s primary long-term objective should be stated in relatively few words. It must provide focus and clarity. Multiple objectives can cloud the organization’s primary mission.

Board Approval

The resulting mission statement is, in the end, the responsibility of the Board of Directors in consultation with the Executive Director.

The Strategic Plan

The strategic plan is the road map by which the nonprofit understands where it is going and how it will be able to:

  1. Complete the mission.
  2. Complete the mission effectively.
  3. Complete the mission efficiently.

In essence, the strategic plan according to John M. Bryer, is “a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape what an organization does and why it does it.” The strategic plan:

  1. Promotes strategic thought and action.
  2. Improves decision making.
  3. Enhances organizational responsiveness and performance.
  4. Assists personnel to better fulfill their roles and meet responsibilities.
  5. Enhance teamwork.

The plan must be formulated with some degree of objectivity and probability.

In projecting the costs of accomplishment, the planner must consider such variables as:

  1. The state of the economy.
  2. The ability to capture resources from contributors and grantors.
  3. The length of time it will take to recruit volunteers and hire and train employees.
  4. The amount of research and preparation needed before the first product or services necessary for mission achievement can be delivered.
  5. Rate of Inflation.
  6. Time value of money.

The successful nonprofit manager and board, need to assess progress as it relates to the overall mission, strategic plan, and operations. They accomplish this task with information that is provided to them in the form of budget-to-actual comparisons and statistical reports on units of progress. The Board should be doing this throughout the five year period covered by the strategic plan. The plan itself should only be adjusted when and if:

  1. Major new programs are adopted.
  2. There is a change in mission.
  3. Deviations from the original assumptions are so material as to indicate that the plan is no longer applicable in a meaningful way.

This self-assessment process begins with a survey of key personnel within the organization. The results should be analyzed and used to plan the agenda for a Board retreat.

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