Mission Minded

By Kristen MerrifieldJune 22, 2016

As professionals running an association, we can sometimes fall into the trap of telling our members to “do as we say, not as we do,” meaning that we are more focused on their development and success than that of our own. However, we must instead find a way to focus on leading by example and understand that in order to help fulfill the missions of our members, we must first work on fulfilling our own mission. This is critically important as we are the only membership association serving the needs of the over 20,000 nonprofit organizations in Arizona. 

The first step to doing that is having a clear and meaningful mission statement. For this reason, we went back to the drawing board earlier this year to refine and strengthen the mission of the Alliance, which now is:  

"To unite, strengthen and advance the Arizona nonprofit sector." 

With this renewed focus, we have set out to truly be the advocate, promoter, and supporter of the nonprofit sector that we have been called on to be. The focus groups that we held with nonprofits and stakeholders last fall were instrumental as attendees provided us with critical feedback on what the perceived and desired role of the Alliance is, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing the entire sector. It is indeed a large but extremely important job, and the Alliance staff, board, and volunteers stand ready to do whatever we can do to fulfill this mission. Of course this is not something that happens overnight, nor can it be done in a vacuum. For this reason, we have also been diligent in forming strategic partnerships with likeminded organizations throughout the state to provide the most extensive network of resources for our nonprofit members. 

To this end, we are very excited to launch a brand new website and online community this fall, aimed at connecting, informing, and promoting the nonprofit sector to those in it, as well as the general public and other sectors in our state. We also look forward to another tremendous annual conference and member meeting coming up on Sept. 29, in Phoenix. This year’s conference theme ties directly in to our mission: Unite for a Stronger Nonprofit Section. Our keynote and breakout sessions are all focused on the big-picture issues facing our nonprofit sector, along with bringing everyone together for conversation and resource sharing to advance the sector and our individual organizations. More information can be found at arizonanonprofits.org.  

As we know, a strong mission statement allows a nonprofit organization to, among other things, define purpose and attract support. This is definitely the case for the Alliance and our 800-plus members. A mission statement will define the nonprofit organization’s purpose and cause. Without an understandable mission statement, the nonprofit’s members and donors may not have a clear singular vision and may, at times, disagree on goals and plans. If everyone involved with the organization can understand and agree on the mission statement, this will eliminate confusion about the nonprofit’s purpose and unite those working toward a cause. 

As the mission statement defines purpose, this is important for drawing volunteers, donors, and other sources of assistance to help the nonprofit. Nonprofits often exist on donations and volunteers. Without either, the organization may not be able to operate. Having a strong mission statement, which both volunteers and donors can back, is important to drive needed support. Not only will the mission statement attract members, volunteers, and donors, it will allow these individuals to proudly spread the same message. 

As we continue to focus on our mission, we will constantly be looking at ways to unite, strengthen and advance the nonprofit sector. I always welcome feedback on how we can best serve our nonprofits and those who support their missions. Please feel free to contact me at any time.