When you end a board call and feel the endorphins released by the enthusiasm of a great meeting of the minds, you know you are part of something special. There is no mistaking the feeling of true collaboration. When the people that make up organizations can come together and spark joy in each other, there is magic to be made. Setting this image as a goal to aim for is truly attainable when you have a clear mission and an inspired vision that will inform an evolving working strategy that your entire board understands and can get behind. Have you had this experience with your current board?
Is the mission clear?
Knowing your mission in and out will lay the supportive groundwork for your strategy. Clarifying what you are set out to accomplish is an art. The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the NonProfit Sector interviewed 3,000 nonprofit executives, staff, board members, and donors to assess common findings in the field. When looking at mission and strategy, 38% struggled with the organization’s strategy and 18% had issues with the mission. Understanding all the concepts of a non-profit depends on a board that knows how to communicate complex ideas. Using different models to express these ideas can be helpful.
Finding the right words to convey all that you are working to accomplish should take time and as your organization grows, these words should be revisited to show this growth. Make use of your members that shine in writing and communication as they are a great asset to bringing your message to the world. Using old-school brainstorming sessions, visual mind mapping techniques, and word association can open up a group to find the right words. Being specific while leaving room for the unknown is a delicate dance. Allowing a little playfulness when writing your mission will make space for inspired innovation to occur in the future.
What strategy model works for your organization?
It is important for every organization to have a long-term strategic plan–typically 3 or 5 years–that informs where your organization is going, but it is also imperative to set aside smaller chunks of time to regularly evaluate your strategy. The Forbes Councils Podcast speaks to giving your strategy a checkup to assess the health of your mission. A check up every 90 days can keep strategy relevant and fresh. “Strategy is no longer done in large, painful bursts. Strategy should be seen as an ongoing process.”
Be vigilant about aspects that are drawing you closer to your mission and fine tune these areas. New ideas flavored by current events and development of relationships can be indispensable when used in a timely manner. Don’t let an old strategy model hinder the evolution of your organization.
Are your members inspired by the vision?
Can your team run with the current strategy? Inspiration is most tangible in the air when the strategy makes sense. Beyond the board room, your members will reach out to each other via phone, email, or face-to-face to share ideas that are bubbling up and won’t wait for the next meeting. Within each checkup of your ongoing strategy, observe the energy that is brought to the meetings beyond what is said. Is the board feeling it? Is it supported by their varied strengths? What are the hurdles? Are there ways to build the strategy process make it more intuitive to your specific team? Keep asking these important questions.
There will always be an ebb and flow to the enthusiasm of your board and members when developing mission and strategy. Understanding what is working and what can be improved is a sign of a healthy board. Keep checking in and know that you are not alone. Your organization originated with a passion to to make an impact and successfully bringing it into reality is a continued labor of love and service. Take pride in how far you have come and know that the best is yet to come.
Megan Van Petten
Van Petten Group, Inc.