Book Review: The Mission Myth

Sometimes I feel like a capitalist at my nonprofit.
Maybe it’s because I’m focused on results.  Maybe it’s because I’m a sales gal at heart, i.e. I’m used to having a “number on my head.”
Either way.  As a leader at a nonprofit, there are times when I feel out of sync with my colleagues and wonder if I’m too focused on revenue vs. mission.
That is why I LOVED The Mission Myth: Building Nonprofit Momentum Through Better Business by Deirdre Maloney.
Maloney is a veteran Executive Director, who spent seven years learning the ups and downs of institution-building, while leading the Colorado AIDS Project.  The Mission Myth is her excellent attempt to show that it takes much more than passion (i.e. mission) to run a successful, thriving nonprofit.  According to her, it takes passion and The Four Ms: Management, Money, Marketing and Measurement.
Whether you are an experienced nonprofit leader or new to the sector, you’ll appreciate Maloney’s honest and practical advice about about managing your board, getting real about fundraising, enhancing your communication, recruiting new talent, using data to make better decisions and more.  Use it to mitigate your own managerial mistakes.
I hope you will read the whole book but here are a few points that really resonated for me.
Your mission may inspire you to get up in the morning but it won’t make you or your team a success! Too many nonprofit leaders (you know who you are) are passionate about changing the world and that is a good thing.  But (and there is a big BUT here) if you don’t find a way to scale your passion through good leadership, efficient processes, stable funding, transparent policies and more you won’t be in business for long.  Don’t be fooled by the image of the charitable sector as a poster child for peace, love and happiness.  Running a nonprofit is running a business and it’s really hard work.
Be explicit (in your communication). This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard lately.  Be explicit, i.e. say what you mean and mean what you say.  This is so hard for many of us as nonprofit leaders.  We don’t want to deal with hurt feelings. We long to be liked.  We’re nice people. (We work for nonprofits after all!)  Unfortunately, it’s not possible or reasonable to expect other people to read your mind (or mine).  To lessen the confusion, frustration and inefficiency at your nonprofit, strive to be clear, succinct and timely in your communication.
Fundraising is sales. “When you, as part of your organization, engage in fundraising, you engage in sales.  Good sales.  The money you bring in goes toward a cause that matters. You need to understand and embrace this.  If you are unwilling to believe your job is sales, if you think this is an organic process, one where the prospects merely need to hear about your great work and will hand over their hard-earned money, you are kidding yourself.”  Amen!
Thanks again to Deirdre Maloney for a solid book and for helping us all to do good well.
This blog was reprinted from Jocelyn Harmon’s blog spot, Marketing Nonprofits, with her permission.