In this episode of the Nonprofit Jenni Show podcast, I discussed organizations who have mission statements which don't seem to directly relate to their programs and initiatives. There are some nonprofit organizations who have a mission statement or cause which doesn’t seem, on the surface, to directly relate to their programs. For example, the mission of Girls on the Run is to instill confidence and positive values in grade school girls, but they accomplish this mission through an athletic program. And TechBridge exists to alleviate poverty across the country, but they don’t actually provide direct services to impoverished communities.
Please note: I highly encourage you to listen to Episode 1 of Season 2 before reading this blog post! My blog lists some great “action items” for you to take after you listen to the podcast, plus additional resources you can check out if you have further questions. However, my podcast guests give so much additional rich information which isn’t included in the article you’re about the read.
GOTR is a nonprofit organization which serves girls in third through eighth grade to help them learn life and character skills, such as healthy eating, goal setting, and self confidence. I asked Executive Director Tiffany Patton how their program of running a 5k implements these life lessons, and she explained that the curriculum includes a mixture of discussion groups, games, and exercise to emphasize the skills the girls learn about. For example, if the topic of the day is kindness, the girls will first discuss what kindness means and looks like in their real lives, and then play physically active games to act out kindness with one another. At the end of each program cycle, the girls actually run and/or walk a 5k with volunteers to demonstrate how far they've come both physically and mentally.
I asked Tiffany how GOTR ensures parents, students, and volunteers don't get confused about the mission of the organization--in other words, how do they make it clear that the program is really about character development, and not fitness? Tiffany says the organization is extremely clear in all their marketing materials that the program is all about teaching life lessons through the vehicle of physical activity. However, many times, volunteers get involved with the organization because they're interested in either the character development or physical activity, and are pleasantly surprised by how the program ends up benefiting the girls so much in both areas.
Tiffany says the two pronged mission statement does not really impact the corporate sponsors and grants they attract. While she would love for all of their sponsors to be super passionate about girls' development or health and fitness, she says most of the time, sponsorships come through existing relationships. This is why it's so important for organizations to develop great relationships with board members and volunteers who can introduce new contributors.
TechBridge is another nonprofit organization which has programs that don't seem to directly relate to their mission statement. While TechBridge's mission is to eliminate poverty in the US, they don't directly serve impoverished populations. Instead, they provide technology consulting services to nonprofits who are working on the front lines of eliminating poverty. Some of these services include:
- Helping organizations find the best ways they can use technology to solve current issues or bottleneck areas
- Helping organizations write grant applications to be able to afford those technology solutions
- Implementing technology solutions and an ongoing budget for organizations to remain sustainable in the long-term
The TechBridge mission has evolved over time, starting as a charity ball and turning into a consultancy group for nonprofits serving impoverished populations. As their mission has evolved, Maithri says they have had to regularly communicate with their stakeholders, such as contributing foundations and sponsors, to let them know about new services they offer and their new focus area. TechBridge also forms new relationships through referrals from past clients and donors, conferences and trade shows, and their web presence.
When I asked Maithri how TechBridge explains their mission in a clear way to avoid confusing stakeholders, she explained that they have created a Theory of Change to highlight their role in the nonprofit community. She recommends other nonprofits with two pronged mission statements also create their own Theory of Change, including:
- Problem statement -- What is the overall problem in the community which you are addressing?
- Assumptions -- What are the reasonable assumptions you can make about the problem and current situation?
- Assets and needs -- What resources are already available to the community you're serving, and where are the gaps?
- Strategies for addressing those needs -- Where does your organization fit in?
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