Focus Leads To Nonprofit Success: Is Your Organization Rowing or Drifting

Picture yourself standing on the bank of a river watching a rowing competition. Carefully watch the crews. Crewmembers dip the oars and bring them to the surface again and again in a carefully orchestrated rhythm. Crewmembers are working together to realize their common vision of a first place finish. Every team member is clear about the mission - complete the race in the fastest time.

Everyone is working hard to pull in the same direction at the same time. They are focused on the desired end results.

Now picture a nonprofit organization coping with increased competition. Funding is a constant struggle. Conversations with board members and staff paint a picture of people operating with different definitions of the purpose and future of the organization. The organization is adrift.

Is your organization rowing or drifting?

Organizations that are drifting suffer from three common problems. Staff and board members develop programs, services or products based on their own version of the organization's mission; it is hard to identify the underlying strategies and the core programs. In addition, staff and board members chase dollars to support activities. Finally, staff and board members have no standard upon which to base decisions. At times, one option seems as good as another.

These actions lead to disjointed programs, decreased funding and poor decision-making. If any of these problems sound familiar, you can take steps to solve them.

First, develop a clear vision statement that provides staff and board members with a sense of direction. Second, define the mission of your organization in terms of that future. A clearly defined mission allows each person in the organization to understand why the organization exists. Third, define your measures of success. Measures of success help everyone understand what you are trying to achieve.

Start pulling in the same direction and focus on the end results. Taking action now can put you on the path to becoming a more effective organization that creates greater impact in the community.

Judith Rothbaum's passion is helping nonprofits thrive. Through her monthly e-newsletter, she offers practical management, fundraising and communication solutions for bold nonprofits on the move. She gives seminars, workshops, presentations and coaching programs nationwide for nonprofit professionals and volunteers. Visit to learn more.

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