The Polarity of Mission and Performance in Nonprofit Organizations

The core question that faces the leaders of all nonprofit organizations is this:

What is more important — Mission or Performance?

This seems like a simple question. However, when you begin to seek the answer, you  realize that this is a complex question. No matter choice you pick — mission or performance — you realize that you cannot have one without the other.

The tension is present because this either/or question is really a polarity or a paradox. As such, the  answer to the question does not lead to a solution. The question as it is currently worded cannot be solved.

Some leaders have approached this question by suggesting that both mission and performance are important, but one is more important than the other. A widely known example of this is expressed in the following statement: No money  no mission. Another longer example; We’re not in the business to make money, but we need to make money to stay in business.

The better way to approach this issue is to replace the either/or character of the question with and. Rather than trying to choose what is more important, leaders need to recognize that both mission and performance are important.

Leaders should instead be concerned with how the challenges of mission and performance are balanced and aligned with each other. You need a strong mission and strong performance for an nonprofit organization to be healthy and sustainable.

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Related posts:

  1. Why is Governance Partnership Important to Nonprofit Organizations?
  2. Nonprofit Organization Starvation
  3. The Governance Intersection in Nonprofit Organizations
  4. Organization Performance
  5. Mission Outcomes

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