Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at the “workings” of your nonprofit to determine if it is a good steward. Stewardship tends to be a biblical term that we don’t often hear used in today’s world. However, the concept is very real and relevant to our work in nonprofits and ministries. According to the dictionary, stewardship is the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something. Notice that the definition does not include ownership, but instead focuses on taking care of something. Since we don’t own nonprofits or ministries (they are owned by the public trust) we can consider ourselves as stewards, simply serving in the role of protecting and being responsible for the organization.
The first area that you need to steward, “protect” is that of the organizational mission. The mission is the most important asset of an organization. While this may seem obvious, more than 95% of faith based leaders report that mission drift is an ongoing concern for them every day. The board may see things one way, staff another and donors still another. So, unless you are really clear about your mission and get everyone connected to the organization clear, you are going to be pulled and may find the organization drifting…
Instead of being pulled away from your mission by chasing after other “good” areas that somewhat related to or connected to your mission, focus instead on doing your mission better. How can you serve better? What organizational systems can you improve upon? How can you invest in the people of the organization so that you can better live out the mission each and every day?
As you think about mission, you also need to think about the fact that the organization is a mission based business. I hear many people saying, “we are a nonprofit,” or “we are a ministry,” as a way of making excuses for doing their mission poorly. As a nonprofit or ministry, you are a mission-based business. This means that you focus on the organizational mission but you are also a business which means that you need to function in some ways like a business. Business tools such as accounting, marketing, development, training, etc., are all tools that help the mission-based business fulfill its mission. They are not optional. They are essential!
And, like businesses, nonprofits and ministries must also have a return on their investment. According to Peter Brinckerhoff in his book, Smart Stewardship for Nonprofits, nonprofits have two forms of return. The first is a financial return—in for profit businesses, this is known as a profit. The other is a mission return. How does choice A compare in its impact on my mission versus choice B?
Mission return is usually not as simple to calculate as a financial return—there are no simple formulas for determining the value of a decision on mission. Instead, leaders must look at all of the facts and make decisions based on the best information they have. One important piece that cannot be overlooked for nonprofits or ministries is that of financial return.
Without money, the organization will be unable to serve anyone. While we often speak of mission and serving others….we can’t serve without the finances to do so. Thus, the question we need to be asking is how will this mission-based decision impact our finances and our mission?
Obviously, these are not always easy decisions. Typically, these types of decisions have a lot of pieces and all must be analyzed ….and, yes, faith does come into play. Sometimes, organizations make decisions that, on the surface, do not seem to be in the best interest of the organization financially, but faith tells you to step-out. I understand that! Just be certain that these decisions are being made in prayer and in the best interest of the organization—and not in the best interest of staff, board members or organizational leadership.
How can we help your organization steward its mission? Contact us today, we are here to help.