Mission and Means

on in Nonprofit
I’ve been thinking about where money and mission coincide.  Or don’t.

We’ve been working with a client that is wrestling with finance questions around its business model.

But, really, these are mission-based questions – who do they serve, what’s their core expertise, and what is the meaning of why they’re here on God’s green earth.

Or something like that.

It’s not just about who they charge for what.

And it’s been the board pushing the staff – to look beyond – that’s forced the issue.

To look beyond the budget numbers, this year’s and next.  To look beyond the profit and loss, the cash flow knot in the stomach, the accounting tricks that make them look stable.

And to look towards mission.

“It’s not about the market – it’s about the mission.”  I listened to the board chair say that to the executive director, and I was once again reminded of the power and necessity of the board’s point of view.

But how does this come up for “fundraising consultants”?

We’re often called in to help an organization fundraise around program assumptions.  But sometimes, a lack of financial support for a program is, in fact, a sign of larger mission drift.  Programs that might have been started because there was a ready financial market, are now orphaned without funding and without a strong enough tie to mission.

And it takes a board member – who’s not bound to the day-to-day grindstone – to point it out.

Is it mission?  Or is it means?

If it’s mission, a fundraiser can find a way to sell it.  But if it’s means, it may not have the significance, the weight, to be carried.  It may, paradoxically, be too “light-weight” – too far from the core – to be saleable from a fundraising point of view.


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