A nonprofit with extensive financial and human resources, but limited social impact, is anything but successful. Unlike your peers working at for-profit companies, nonprofits success cannot be defined by looking at operating budgets and profit margins alone. In the social-good sector, true success comes from creating lasting impact for individuals and communities.
There are countless challenges in your community that need addressing, but no single nonprofit can tackle all of them. Especially not at the same time. Additionally, you are competing with the other nonprofits in your community for donations to support your organization. One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd and create lasting social impact is for your organization to be laser focused on a specific cause for a target demographic. Developing a clear nonprofit mission statement, and then aligning all your resources, strategic planning, and measures around it, will help you stay on track. What Is a Nonprofit Mission?
In its simplest form, a nonprofit mission is why you exist as an organization. It is an explanation of who you serve, how you serve them, and why. In their book Engine of Impact, William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker layout seven essential elements for a nonprofit mission. Three of those elements are that your mission must be focused, solve an unmet public need, and inspire stakeholders.
The needs of any given community are extensive. There are individuals who require help with affordable housing, food insecurity, healthcare access, educational resources, childcare, immigrant services, job training, mental health resources, and many, many more critical needs. Even the largest and most established nonprofits cannot address them all. Targeting a specific need allows your organization to become experts in that one area and develop best practices for serving your clients. A focused mission statement is essential for developing a logic model and measurement strategy to prove how you achieve this mission and drive impact. Once you’ve become an expert in your area of focus, you can join or create a collaborative to broaden your whole-person impact. Working with other nonprofits and government organizations allows you to leverage each other’s strengths as you work to address complex challenges.
The United States is home to more than 1.5 million nonprofits. They exist in many communities and serve a wide variety of demographics. Though not all organizations are created equal, there are countless nonprofits that create positive social impact in their sphere of influence. In the business world, direct competition drives innovation. In the social-impact sector, funders want to invest in nonprofits that are meeting needs not addressed by others. In the social-good sector, doing exactly what someone else does may be a missed opportunity. The Kentucky Nonprofit Network recommends that “if another organization exists, consider working together, as that may be a better way to make an impact in your community and make the most of existing resources.”
Your organization’s mission should focus on either a need that is not being addressed at all, or a need that is not being addressed effectively. Both situations create an opportunity for positive change.
Nonprofit missions are not just about providing a roadmap for your organization to follow. The clearest missions help you build support. They inspire volunteers to join your efforts, funders to provide financial resources, and community leaders to believe in your cause. In short, your mission should be captivating and meaningful enough that your stakeholders feel ownership in helping your organization accomplish your mission.
Lean On Your Mission
Once you’ve defined your nonprofit mission, the next step is to use that mission to drive impact.
The best way to increase fundraising is to convince funders that your mission helps them achieve their mission. But it is also critical to make sure that the funders you approach align with your mission. Grants, whether they are from government programs or private foundations, come with strings attached. Be careful not to accept funds that require you to stray from your organization’s mission. Losing focus will not help your cause.
Missions create a broad target to aim for, but you cannot achieve them in one fell swoop. Developing short and long-term goals allows you to fill the gap between where you are and where you want to go with manageable steps. The best goals help your organization work to become more efficient, effective, and equitable.
Besides being manageable, mission-focused goals must be measurable. It's not enough to feel that your programs and services are creating impact, you need to be able to prove it in order to attract funding. Data-driven goals include key indicators and metrics that give you the ability to define and quantify success.
SureImpact founder and CEO, Sheri Chaney Jones started SureImpact specifically to help social-good organizations measure and share their success. SureImpact is a purpose-built impact management platform that is designed for social-good providers by social-good providers. SureImpact provides the data collection and impact reporting infrastructure to meet the unique needs of social-good organizations as you develop and follow a data-driven strategy. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools are designed to help nonprofits manage, measure, and communicate their social impact while also increasing data capacity for their team members and supporting a high-performing culture.
Check out an interactive tour of SureImpact Analytics to learn more.