Let’s imagine that Sunshine Senior Services is a program for the elderly community focusing on improving the lives of people with dementia and their families. We’ll occasionally use this fictional nonprofit start-up as an example in this blog series.
One of the things you must have to make your start-up charity successful is alignment between your mission and your programs.
Charities serve the public good. They provide a service or serve to create change. The mission of an organization should make clear what kind of results or improvements the charity will provide. Is the organization improving health, providing an education, or making people safe? Is it preventing an unhealthy behavior?
The missions on which charities focus are usually complex. Eradicating hunger, reducing the number of people in poverty, and reducing the dropout rate are massive tasks, and any one organization by itself may not quickly produce a noticeable change across a large community. Having clear alignment will help show where you intend to make an impact and may even show that you’ve “moved the needle” in a significant way at some point.
Having alignment means your organization can clearly articulate the organization mission, vision and target population. The founder and board should ensure its programs align with its mission and create a plan to measure change created by the programs. Then they can adjust their programs based on their evaluation results (don’t let the phrase “evaluation” scare you- we’ll make it simple).
In our example of Sunshine Senior Services, the organization is described as improving the lives of people with dementia and their families.
According to the description of a clear mission, we might run into a problem with the stated mission of Sunshine Senior Services. How do we improve lives of our constituents? Can you tell through our mission statement if we conduct research, provide awareness, or offer direct service to seniors through adult day care or social services? With an unspecific mission, this charity is at risk of providing programs that are not targeted and are less likely to provide results.
For example, this organization might 1) raise money for research, 2) collect gifts for seniors in a memory care unit and 3) speak at civic organizations once a month to raise awareness regarding dementia? As the mission is currently written, would it be easy to measure the results from this?
Let’s consider a more focused and aligned mission for Sunshine Senior Services: “Our mission is to improve awareness and access to resources for families of people with dementia to improve care and reduce stress for the whole family.” Services for a program with this mission statement might include:
Consider your program idea. How might your organization develop a cycle of measuring the need in the community, the success in your programs, and how to best use your organization’s resources? When it comes to making progress with large social problems, you don’t have to fix everything at once. But you do want to have an effect where you are.
There are a few good reasons to have mission and program alignment. Increasing your likelihood to make an impact and show results, use resources wisely, and attract funders are just a few. Knowing how to align your programs and communicate this to funders can be trickier.
Be sure to subscribe to learn more or reach out if we can help you build a strong mission and program connection. Let’s change lives together!
Mentor Kimberly Massey
In addition to my work in the social impact field, I have a great husband of 27 years and an incredible 20 year old daughter. Our family lives in central Mississippi and we provide a loving, but sometimes chaotic home to two awesome dogs and a turtle.
Download the Free Resource: Start a Charity and Still Sleep at Night