It was with great curiosity that I opened Business Solutions Press' recently published "The Mission Myth: Building Momentum Through Better Business" by Deirdre Maloney.
When I see a new nonprofit related title I frequently fantasize that some new or clever approach to supporting nonprofit boards and managers might be awaiting my review. Sadly, The Mission Myth did not fulfil my fantasy.
Let me begin by saying that the title Mission Myth and the context, that mission is not enough to make a nonprofit successful (effective and efficient), is appealing. Mission or passion for mission is the one fundamental and common element for pretty much everyone engaged in the nonprofit sector. Whether "everyone" actually doesn't know that mission isn't the only ingredient I would argue that it certainly doesn't take long for a newbie to find out but I presume this is debatable for at least Ms. Maloney.
That said, The Mission Myth offers a 4-M paradigm to frame the understanding of what beyond Mission is necessary for successs. The title suggests that the "what beyond" is "Better Business". Better business within the 4-M paradigm means management, money (mostly fundraising), marketing (mostly telling the public your story) and measurement. Uh...ok. I suppose these are as good as any other "m" I might conjure.
A truly helpful framework, though? Not in my opinion. There are certainly no surprises, likely even for the newbie, the only possible beneficiary of The Mission Myth. There are some nice anecdotes and most of the content is relatively consistent with my own understanding but worth taking time out to read? I don't think so.
But before concluding allow me to dispel one myth I found in The Mission Myth. The myth I would like to debate focuses on the marketing "m". According to Ms. Maloney, "marketing inspires people to act on behalf of your organization to help reach its goals." HUH? I am afraid there is no part of this definition I can agree to either academically or practically. This definition could almost pass for the meaning of marketing communications but even then this is not a perfect translation.
Adapting the classic Kotler definition and pretty much any of the gurus in the field of marketing management and planning: marketing is the identification and satisfaction of "consumer/donor" needs in exchange for meeting organizational needs. Marketing planning uses the 4-P's to achieve successful marketing goals. The 4-P's: product/service, price, place and promotion in addition to position or value proposition are informed and based on marketing research.
Marketing research and the marketing plan are the foundation of a strong nonprofit business plan.
I'm just saying....