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Taking stock at year end: Mission envy versus mission impact

December 3, 2012
by Terry Axelrod
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The year-end mental score sheet has begun. How did we do? Did we meet our own goals? How do we stack up now compared to others? I call it Mission Envy. Think of another organization in your community that you think has it made. They have the right board members, the easy-to-sell mission, the broad base of community support, the beautiful building(s), a smart and outgoing executive director, a strong development staff. In short—they clearly have it all together.

Perhaps there is another side to that story. If you were to talk to their board members or staff or executive director, you might find that they have another set of challenges—how to keep board members engaged, how to convey their needs to the community so that people will see they have more of their mission to fulfill, a few "normal" issues with funding sources pulling back or programs being restructured.

But even if the illusion of that perfect organization were true, so what? What does that have to do with your organization? Rather than spending time trying to compare your group or use your less-sexy mission to justify your current predicament, take stock of what you have. In fact, the sooner you can get everyone on your team to tell the truth about your unique challenges and successes—and most of all, your unique mission—the sooner you can get on with the real work of engaging your community. In fact, I would assert, that the very reason those "perfect" nonprofits (the ones you envy and are seeking to emulate) got where they are is because they did this very same thing: told the truth about where they were at and made a realistic plan for getting to where they wanted to be.

In other words, it's time to take the fantasy and daydreaming out of the picture. Those are merely distractions to keep you from buckling down and focusing on the challenges your group is facing right now. It's so much easier to spend time comparing yourselves to the other nonprofits in town. That same valuable time could be spent working with a group of dedicated people to take stock of where you really stand, setting your goals, and getting on with fulfilling them. Those SWOT analyses and strategic planning processes really do work—if you are willing to tell the truth about every single aspect of your organization's current status.

Although the SWOT analysis starts with "S" for your strengths as an organization, I think most people naturally default to their "W" for weaknesses, so why not start there? Make your own list of the true weaknesses you see right now in your organization, never mind how you stack up to the other nonprofits in your community. Where are you really weak? Is your executive director a solid leader? Does he or she love what they do, have the respect of the rest of the team, engage the staff in the process of growing the organization, delegate and provide clear pathways for staff to see their future here?



Terry Axelrod

CEO, Benevon

Terry Axelrod



Terry Axelrod is founder and CEO of Benevon. She has more than thirty years of experience in the...

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