Auditing Your Mission

mission-critical

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Fundraisers are accustomed to the annual ritual of the Development Audit.  Accountants and development professionals dialogue in order to reconcile how gifts are recorded, acknowledged, and disbursed.

But when was the last time you did a Mission Audit?  It is just as critical to the long-term success of your organization as the bookkeeping audit, but it is often neglected because there are no legal requirements to do a mission audit.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen organizations lose track of their mission while trying to maintain their fundraising, with disastrous consequences.  Board members and executives wonder went wrong, and the fundraising staff takes the blame.  A cycle of personnel changes is likely to follow, but the fundamental problem may not be the people, but rather the failure to articulate, communicate and live the mission of the organization.

Here are a few steps to take toward a Mission Audit:

  • Board members, executive staff, fundraisers, and constituents should come together at least annually to look critically at your mission statement, and how your strategic plans align with your mission.
  • Consider a climate survey, where all constituents are asked candidly about where the organization is living the mission, and where it is falling short. Share the results of the study with all constituents, and revise your annual plans to address the areas of concern.
  • Fundraisers should examine your communications stream to see how the mission is being articulated in every appeal, all media, each gift acknowledgement, and every impact story. It’s not enough to think your communications are clear and consistent; use key words and content analysis to critically examine your communications.
  • Listen to your donors, and incorporate their words into your appeals. It is one thing for you to assume you know why people give to your organization.  By listening to your donors, they will tell you why they give.  There is no uncertainty on your part, and their passion will communicate to others.
  • Celebrate your mission success stories, and make them widely known!

Remember, people give to solve societal problems, but they won’t give to solve your organizational problems.  You have a responsibility to audit your mission, to be certain that you are planning for mission, living your mission and articulating your mission.  If your mission is healthy, successful fundraising will follow.

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