8 Best Practices about Your Mission Statement

1. The Mission Statement should be short and sweet – a compelling and inspiring statement about what is being delivered by the organization.
2. The board, staff and volunteers should revisit the mission annually.
3. Discussion of the mission statement should be a prominent part of all orientations.
4. The mission statement should be on all literature, on the web site, and posted in the workplace.
5. Start every meeting with a “Mission Minute” – someone telling a story about a client or the organization’s contribution.
6. The mission statement should be written on all board and staff agendas.
7. The mission statement should be on all board minutes.
8. All staff, board and volunteers should KNOW the mission (by heart).

Board Governance – 6 Parts of Successful Oversight

There are many definitions of Board Governance – most of which are broad and theoretical. But when I consult with boards who are interested in improving their ability to govern, I like to use a more practical definition that includes 6 key areas of focus. Additionally, I provide a few examples of actions or evidence that supports each of the six focus areas. This list, with its qualifiers, helps board members see how to work more effectively with their CEO and staff, and implement good board governance.
Below are the 6 focus areas of good board governance – and some examples of actions or evidence against which you can measure your ability to govern and lead.
1. Ensure that the organization is adhering to its mission.
a. There’s a crisp, clear one-sentence mission statement for the organization.
b. All projects that are not within the scope of this mission statement are eliminated.
c. If any potential funding or programs fall outside of the mission, they are discussed thoroughly and need to be approved by the board.
2. Approve and follow a strategy for the organization.
a. Be sure the organization has a strategy (a minimum of 3 years out).
b. Know how the organization is evolving and why.
c. Agree on the key milestones that are expected to be achieved and their due dates.
d. Debate thoroughly all funding, programs, or projects that fall outside of this strategy.
e. Any changes to the strategy require board approval.
3. Maintain a financially sound organization.
a. Establish an annual expense budget and an annual fundraising budget.
b. Ask the CEO to present the actual vs. budget (both expenses and fundraising) at every meeting – at last quarterly. Make sure the entire board understands these reports.
c. Create financial policies for the organization (cash handling, rainy-day funds, and investments) and be sure they are followed.
d. Hire an outside auditor annually.
4. Approve all policies and be sure they are being followed.
a. These minimum policies are in place: conflict of interest, ethics policy, values statements.
b. These organizational policies need to be approved by the entire board: Financial Policies, Human Resource Policies, Donor Policies, Operations Policies.
5. Inspire and manage the CEO.
a. Set up annual objectives (of accomplishments) for the CEO.
b. Make sure the Chair of the Board reviews the CEO annually. (written and verbal)
c. Insist on training and development for the CEO (and all staff members) each year.
d. Talk about the career path of the CEO each year – make sure you’re on track.
6. Create board sustainability.
a. Create meaningful committees that works closely with the staff and provides both oversight (governance) and organizational support.
b. For each board committee, create a brief, annual action plan for the work that will be achieved by that committee.
c. Know what skills are required on your board.
d. Create an annual system of recruitment and orientation that replenishes the skills of the board members whose terms are expiring at the end of each year.
e. Conduct a board self-evaluation annually.
f. Create a strong, supportive team that enjoys working together.

If your board meetings are not focused on the decisions required to govern properly, you should encourage your board to make some changes now. Not only is the board legally responsible to address these key areas of an organization, but it makes sense that the leaders of the organization focus their time and attention on these 6 key issues.

Send this article to your Board Chair today. Sit down and discuss how you can work together to create a board that governs wisely and thoroughly.

Quick ByLaws Tune-Up


Your nonprofit board is legally required to adhere to your organization’s bylaws. 

Your Board Development Committee can recommend changes to your bylaws if you are not in compliance. 

Your board votes  to approve your new bylaws at any time (and your bylaws should tell you what portion of your board needs to agree to bylaw changes).


To change your bylaws:

  1. Assign the task of changing your bylaws to your Board Development Committee or an ad hoc (temporary) committee
  2. Distribute the committee’s NEW BYLAWS – DRAFT #1 to the entire board  and seek full board input
  3. Revise one more time based on full board input
  4. Forward by e-mail the FINALIZED RECOMMENDED BYLAWS to the board 1 week prior to board meeting
  5. At the board meeting – vote to adopt the new bylaws.


Keep your bylaws simple and uncomplicated.  You can always add policies or procedures to make more specific rules – but don’t restrict your board too much with details in your bylaws.

Include these topics on your bylaws:

  1. Your Mission Statement
  2. # of Board Members (Use a range.  For example: “ at least 5 and no more than 15 board members”)
  3. # Board Members (majority or portion(2/3)) required to approve each of these actions:- General board approvals (meeting minutes, financials, strategy, budget changes), Terminating the Executive Director or removing a board member from the board, Changing the Bylaws, Voting in new board members, approving board officer slate

     4.  List of officers (usually, Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary)

     5. Board Officers = Executive Committee and can decide on behalf of board in EMERGENCIES

     6. Members – what do they approve (board members)?, is there an annual meeting?

     7. E-mail provision – board voting by e-mail, meeting notification by e-mail

     8. Dissolving the organization (generally any funds go to an org with a similar mission)

Avoid these topics in your bylaws if you can:

  1. Board members that represent constituencies (very cumbersome)
  2. Large minimum # of board members (the larger the board, the more work there is)
  3. Committee lists (too restrictive)
  4. Months to vote in new members, have member meetings (too restrictive) – this can be in your policies statement
  5. Hard copy, written notification of anything
  6. Any decision requiring unanimous vote


  1. http://non-profit-governance.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_write_bylaws_for_nonprofits
  2. Nonprofits for Dummies, Hutton and Phillips, Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2006
  3. www.irs.gov  (search for bylaws)

For more information about the 7 Steps to Stronger Nonprofits, go to BoardsThatExcel.com.