Everything rests on this: clarity about why this organization exists – its identity and its purpose. Every decision about the organization, including decisions about who is hired and how the budget is determined, comes back to mission: who are we? What is our mission?
This is not merely about a mission statement; though that is a good point of reference. It means, at the very least, the following;
What industry are we in? Are we a school, a church, an art gallery, an advocacy agency, a development or perhaps a civic organization.
Within that industry, what distinguishes us? What makes us unique – not special, just unique: what is our particular sphere of opportunity and responsibility?
And then, given our institutional purpose, can we frame and live out this mission in a way that is financially sustainable and compelling?
Mission then becomes the compass – sustained by the rhetoric of the senior leadership team and implemented by the key team members within the organization [the staff, or in the case of a college or university, the faculty].
The board are then the trustees of the mission.
Assessment is about intentionally asking: what is our mission and what is the evidence that the mission is actually happening?
Gordon T. Smith. Institutional Intelligence (IVPress, 2017), Chapters 2 and 3.
Peter Drucker. Managing the Non-profit Organization: Principles and Practices. Harper Business, 1990