BoardSource is partnering with organizations like the Knight Foundation and National Council of Non Profits on a initiative to get non-profits to Stand For Your Mission.
While the main thrust of the effort appears to be focused on mobilizing non-profits of all types to more actively advocate for their causes, by necessity it pushes boards to actively engage with their missions rather than treat it as a passive statement of aspirations.
In effect, it drives organizations to practice good governance. If nothing else, it may be a worthwhile endeavor just to have the organizational mission viewed as a living, motivating force for the organization.
The support materials contain a discussion guide which uses The San Diego Youth Symphony (SDYS) as an example. The SDYS board went through a whole debate about whether they should pursue excellence or increase access to music education. Ultimately, they decided to invest in excellence and access.
The introspection about their mission lead them to examine whether their practice reflected their mission.
…when it examined the demographics of the students enrolled in the organization’s traditional youth symphony program. The majority of those students came from affluent communities where children have access to music education in elementary school. Children who did not have access to music education in elementary school were not participating in SDYS’s programs. Understanding this fact led to the board’s commitment to use its resources to influence the state of music education in San Diego County. Most of the county’s public schools in low-income areas had stopped investing in music education during the school day.
Given the participation they had, it would have been easy for the board to decide they were providing access and stop at that. However, they had a meaningful discussion about what “access” really meant and embarked on a pilot program to reintroduce music education into San Diego schools. In addition to providing instruction in schools, the effort involved advocacy and awareness raising activities among policy and decision makers serving San Diego County.
The website has a wide range of information and resources in support of Stand For Your Mission, including slide presentations that tackle possible misconceptions about what types of advocacy efforts are permitted for 501 (c) (3) non-profits.