52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Keeping the Mission Statement Front and Center

October 23, 2020

While preparing for an upcoming virtual seminar, I remembered how much I like using table tents during meetings. For years, I have encouraged nonprofit boards to use these low-tech tools (just a piece of cardstock paper folded in half) to help for board members learn one another’s names.  I also encouraged each board member to write their organization’s board-approved mission statement on the other side of the table tent.  That way, each time the board is discussing or voting on a specific item, the organization’s full mission statement is conveniently staring each person squarely in the face.  The table tents can be collected at the end of each meeting and used again and again.

Of course, our virtual meeting platform allows folks to display their names on screen. And, of course, we will have an opportunity for self-introductions.  But that simple and constant reminder of the organization’s mission cannot be displayed in quite the same way as it can with a table tent.

The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector reminds us that nonprofits “should have a mission statement that is a clear and formal statement of the organization’s purpose as defined and approved by the board of directors. The organization’s activities should be consistent with its stated purpose.”

What are some ways that nonprofits can continue to keep the board approved mission front and center in the midst of the current environment?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Place the organization’s mission statement at the top of all board meeting agendas.
  • Insert the organization’s mission as a footer on your organization’s documents.
  • Organize your board meeting agendas in a way that mirrors the various aspects of your organization’s mission.
  • Invite program participants to share a “mission moment” during your board and staff meetings.
  • Appoint a board member to help the board stay focused on the mission and not tangential topics.

For more information on how to keep the organization’s mission front and center, we encourage you to check out the Standards for Excellence educational resource packet, Mission Impact and Planning, which includes not only a full discussion of developing and revising the mission statement but also a heavy emphasis on strategic planning and analysis. Attachments and tools provided in this packet include: a sample strategic plan worksheet and a sample strategic plan implementation/action plan.

This educational resource packet and the full series of all packets  – including sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management – can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.