Keeping the Focus on the Mission
This blog was originally published on the Standards for Excellence Institute® website, for which Maribel is a peer reviewer. As a peer reviewer, she evaluates an organization’s application for compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.
You start with the mission – Point A. This is your intent. You want to achieve the objectives – Point B, which is stated in your mission. This is your goal. You then create your annual report, which is a way of showcasing your accomplishments. The fundamental message of this report is demonstrate how well you’ve connected the dots. So why did your annual report miss point B?
Many organizations report on accomplishments that do not address their stated mission, or there is no clear and logical connection between their intent and their achievements. Some organizations measure activities instead of results. I suspect that many find themselves confronted with having to report their accomplishments, and at the time, come up with the best available data that somehow measures what they’ve done. This is a last-minute exercise at displaying such a vital aspect of your organization. I view this as a lack of proper planning at the time you set your mission and improper mapping of those essential points that align your intent with your accomplishments.
Your mission should be as specific as possible, stating a narrowly focused intent. You can have a short-term mission and revise as you grow and are able to tackle broader issues. A laser beam intent should be one that can be translated to a specific target by a specific date. From the perspective of your mission, you should be aiming directly at your accomplishments. There it is: Point A to Point B.
However, getting from Point A to Point B is not necessarily a direct route. Along the way, you should be hitting the following points that will keep you on track:
- What specifically will I accomplish? State your accomplishments now as if you were writing it in your annual report. State accomplishments based on how you have affected your constituents, not based on your activities. How will I measure these accomplishments? It is crucial at this time to set up a system of measurements or metrics that include a base line, questionnaires, follow up calls or visits and other proactive methods of obtaining data.
- Strategic plan: This plan, regardless of how simple or complex, or whether it is short term or long term, should be aligned with your stated intent and should have measurements incorporated to each strategic objective. This document should faithfully mirror your mission, but if it does not have clearly defined measurements that document real accomplishments, you may have created an instant disconnect from your mission.
- Annual budgets: A budget is a plan for financial activity and results of operations. This plan should be aligned with your strategic plan, addressing each strategic objective. If you have more than one program, create a budget by program, then make sure the planned expenses and operational results are consistent with your strategic objective. The planned use of your organization funds should have a clear connection to achieving the intended results.
- Faithfully monitor the system of accumulating data on your accomplishments. This system is as important as your accounting system, and modern technology allows us to accumulate this data in real time with your accounting data. You should have access to the data and review it at least monthly, if not more frequently. Any negative trends or indication that you will not meet your target should be addressed proactively. If feasible, each program should have its own set of measurements and targets.
- Quarterly budget to actual reports. The Board should review these reports and understand any deviations from the plan, particularly for each individual program. Ask the question, “How does this result affect our targeted accomplishments?”
- Quarterly dashboard reports. These reports should report on preliminary accomplishments against the yearly target and describe how these are measured. Ask the question, “Are we on target, and if not, how do we shift to meet or exceed our target?”
At any stage of your organization’s life, it’s worth taking a few steps back to ensure that your mission is properly aligned with your actions to produce the desired results, measured in objective accomplishments to those you serve.