Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three Processes to Align Mission & Money

By Virgil R. Carter

Beginning a new calendar year often means a new fiscal year for non-profit organizations.  Whenever a new fiscal year is imminent means a new annual budget cycle.  Does your organization have an annual process to align mission and money?  Is your annual budgeting cycle tied to your mission?  Can one look at your annual budget and see clear priorities for accomplishing the organizational mission for the budget year?  To link mission and money there are at least three interconnected processes that may be helpful.  Here’s a brief look at each.

1.       Innovation:  An annual budgeted innovation program, with staff and budget, is a good approach for encouraging and rewarding ideas for new programs, products and services that support the organization’s mission and are based on emerging customer needs.  One approach is to organize the process as an on-going annual grants program, where written proposals are reviewed and approved, if deemed worthy.  Caution:  care must be taken to carefully spell out innovation program objectives so that it’s clear the program is for new ideas, and not to perpetuate the status quo.  Review of proposals must also be carefully based on the innovation program objectives, so as not to simply fund continuation of existing activities.

2.      Existing Program Annual Review:  Most non-profit organizations allocate all of their available resources (financial and human) in support of annual operations. Thus, without the reduction and/or “sunset” of some annual programs, products and services, there may be no capability to add new activities through innovation or any other means.  One approach for annual program review is to implement a customer satisfaction review process, using the “voice of the customer” as a basis for gathering and evaluating data as to which programs, products and services are valued by your customers.  Goods and services not highly valued by customers each year are prime candidates for reduction and /or replacement. 

3.      Annual Program Planning/Budgeting:  Finally, with information from the previous two activities, an organization may conduct a rational annual process for the planning and budgeting of activities for the following 1, 2 or 3 year periods.  Instead of the annual budgeting cycle leading the process, it logically is the final phase of review and planning for the future.  This also helps to reduce status-quo program competition by incumbents for a larger and larger share of the financial pie every year. 

Aligning mission and money is important for a number of reasons.  Here are two:

  • Non-profit organizations need to keep pace with their critical changing markets;
  • In most cases, there are never enough resources for everything, and thus some priorities have to be established.

Thus the old adage is true for many non-profits, “If something new is to be added to the wagon, then something old must be removed.”  Are your mission and money aligned?

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