Board meetings are where the hard work happens.  Nonprofit leaders spend countless hours assembling dedicated and energetic individuals who are asked to roll up their sleeves and show up with knowledge, experience, thoughtful insights, intellectual curiosity and an open mind.  And with those tools they are put to task to think deeply, have frank discussions, solve problems, and make sometimes difficult decisions.  This work is challenging and sometimes grueling.  It requires courage, trust, dedication, and a steadfast sense of shared duty in service of the beacon that is the organization's mission.

Effective nonprofit leaders realize how important it is to create the proper environment for this hard work to happen.  Lots of thought goes into establishing the governance processes and policies that boards need to succeed.  Good boards always keep the organization’s mission in mind while they are doing their work.  But great boards, and their leaders, realize that the true key to success is to keep the mission in their hearts.

That’s where the Mission Moment comes in.  A Mission Moment is a short, well told story about how your organization is making an impact.  Like any well told story, it takes us on a journey and make us feel something along the way.  As we learn about the people involved and the challenges they face, we are invited to imagine ourselves walking in their shoes.  The decisions they make inspire us, teach us, and highlight our shared values.  In the end, the Mission Moment moves us and ties us together based on our shared passion for the organization’s mission.  It reminds us of our “why”. 

A Mission Moment is a terrific way to kick off your board meetings.  You get to tap into that passion, bring it to the surface, and apply it to smooth the way to a high performing board.  Once you’ve reconnected your board based on their “why” they can much more effectively get on with the difficult board work around “how”, “when”, “where”, and “with what resources”.

So, where to begin?  Start by carving out some time at the beginning of each board meeting for your Mission Moment.  It’s tempting to dive right into your jam-packed agenda, but it’s worth 5 or 10 minutes to get off to a magical start.  Mission Moments can be found all around you.  Ask your board members to take turns starting off your board meetings by speaking about their values and their connection to the mission.  Or ask a staff member to recount an obstacle they encountered and how they rose to the occasion and overcame that obstacle to deliver on the organization’s mission.  Invite a client to join you as a guest and share their journey and its outcome as an example of the challenges that your board, staff, volunteers, and donors are helping address in the community. 

The stories that a nonprofit generates are among its most valuable assets.  As effective nonprofit leaders, it is up to you to embrace the importance of creating, gathering, and curating these stories.  And by applying those stories during your board meetings, you can use them to make the hard work just a little bit easier.

For more information contact Jay Weisman

Jay is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) and the founder of Legacy Philanthropy Group. 

Jay brings a unique perspective to his work, having spent many years working with donors, nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs all across the United States. His clients have ranged from some of America’s largest and most prestigious giving organizations such as The J. Paul Getty Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Carnegie Corporation and Citibank, to much smaller private, family and community foundations with staff as few as one person.