Once Again: Can A Mission-Driven Nonprofit Be Blindsided?

03/01/2015 04:39 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015

Strange to say, a nonprofit organization and Board can become too dedicated to its mission! Such overzealousness can cause them to overlook opportunities for strategic change. For example:

Nonprofit boards and their organizations offering mental heath counseling services are aware that new pharmaceutical therapies will certainly reduce the need for face-to-face counseling. They need to balance their current and long-term efforts to accommodate the progress that is being made in the pharmaceutical field.

The phenomenal success of the simultaneous broadcast as offered by the Metropolitan Opera has prompted the simulcast to begin to include Broadway theater productions. How will this expansion impact the local theater organization whose prime purpose is to import live Broadway touring shows? And to what extent are the local groups able to anticipate and plan for this new competition?

Travelers Aid's original mission was to prove assistance to rail and bus travelers, now secondary travel venues. To keep current, the organization has adjusted its mission by offering a wide variety of social services, like homeless housing information, to clients in their local communities.

The following conditions can assist nonprofit boards and managements to be ready for the future:

• To develop farsighted business plans, nonprofit CEOs should have some backgrounds in accounting, marketing, branding, finance and strategic planning.

• One or more board members and the CEO need to be continually alert to global, national and local trends which may impact operations either positively or negatively. They should be able to apply these trends to the nonprofit's current strategy and mission.

• The CEO needs to regularly present board reports on strategic changes being initiated by similar organizations and focus on those that are worth investigation.

• A board-staff committee, every several years, needs to answer the uncomfortable question, "What trends or organizations might impact the need for our mission and/or services?"

• The organization may occasionally employ a knowledgeable field consultant to critique the strategic posture of the organization.

• If the nonprofit is re-accredited, the board should meet with the visiting team to seek its views on what the organization should be doing to prepare for changes in the next three to five years.

Chinese admonition: "The wise man learns by his own experience, the wiser man learns by the experience of others." Nonprofit boards and managements need to heed the Chinese admonition regularly to avoid being blindsided.