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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How nonprofit leaders can ensure mission attainment

mission attainment

A nonprofit’s mission serves as the organization’s guiding purpose and basis for existence. It is what resonates with volunteers, employees, funders, and community stakeholders. When done effectively, mission statements outline how the nonprofit addresses a social cause and who the organization intends to benefit.

Jonker and Meehan contend that an effective mission statement must have seven core elements: “It is focused. It solves unmet public needs. It leverages unique skills. It guides trade-offs. It inspires, and is inspired by, key stakeholders. It anticipates change. And it sticks in memory.” With these core elements in place, the mission statement serves as the foundation that guides decision making.

Mission attainment is the action of achieving the organization’s mission. It ensures the organization’s impact and protects their reputation in their community. Nonprofit leaders must remember that their primary responsibility is to be good stewards of their mission to improve the lives of their beneficiaries. Through effective leadership strategies, sustainable funding, and comprehensive governance practices and accountability measures, nonprofit leaders can prevent mission drift and ensure mission attainment. 

The role of nonprofit leaders is to inspire staff, volunteers, and stakeholders to believe in the organization’s mission. Using an institutional leadership style, nonprofit leaders can inspire commitment to the organization’s mission through cooperation with funders, collective participation, and good governance. This leads to a positive, mission-driven culture where internal and external stakeholders understand the importance and value of the mission. Furthermore, the pursuit of funding that aligns with the mission is critical to mission attainment. As Hager & Searing explain, many nonprofits find themselves “chasing money rather than adhering to their guiding mission” which risks mission attainment.

Nonprofit leaders face tough decisions when balancing funding, stakeholder interests, and impact with their mission. Through good governance and accountability practices, nonprofits can create policies that keep their mission at the center of decision making. Most importantly, creating a downward accountability structure, through which nonprofits hold themselves accountable to their beneficiaries rather than funders, nonprofits increase the likelihood that they achieve their mission.

Be an institutional leader

Live and breathe the organization’s mission. Share the importance of the mission with volunteers, staff, funders, and stakeholders.

Craft a meaningful vision for the future

The vision must be intricately tied to the organization’s mission, long-term sustainability, and achieving desired impact

Create a mission-driven culture

It is important to nonprofit employees and volunteers that they work in a positive environment that is focused on the organization’s mission. They need to see the impact they have in the community and feel valued for the work they do. 

Pursue mission-focused funding

Resist chasing money that requires the organization to stray from the mission.

Create governance and accountability structures that put the mission at the center

Always remember that the work being done is for the organization’s beneficiaries. Get their feedback on how your organization is impacting them.

Engage in meaningful strategic planning

Evaluate the mission, programs, and impact of the organization. If there is a program that does not further the mission, consider revising or doing away with it altogether.

The nonprofit mission statement represents the organization’s reason and purpose for existence. Unlike for-profit corporations for which success is defined in terms of their revenue, nonprofit organizations are deemed successful when they are constantly striving towards mission attainment. When nonprofits stray from their mission, they lose stakeholder interest. Mission attainment is only possible when nonprofit leaders put their organization’s mission at the center of everything they do. Through mission-centered leadership practices, mission-focused leadership practices, and intentional governance and accountability structures, nonprofit leaders can ensure mission attainment.

Katherine Hunt Rodriguez is a 2022 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. She earned her undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts from Soka University of American in 2017. She currently serves as the Family Systems Director for the Family Solutions Collaborative, a coalition of over 20 nonprofit agencies using the collective impact model to end family homelessness in Orange County, California. Katherine resides in Orlando, Florida, with her amazing husband.

Learn more with training for your organization

The ASU Lodestar Center offers organization facilitation, training, individualized consultation and leadership development as part of a comprehensive strategic planning program. Center staff works directly with organizational leaders to customize the program to the organization’s specific needs and desired outcomes.

Effective, motivated boards are critical to a nonprofit organization’s ability to develop its capacity and achieve its mission. Board Governance Training consists of a series of topics that break down the best practices and responsibilities of an effective governing body. It's available in-person, virtually or hybrid, depending on your organization and needs.

Illustration by Lillian Finley, ASU Lodestar Center.

Katherine Hunt Rodriguez headshot


ASU Lodestar Center Blog