Mission-Based Management

Mission-Based Management – Leading Your Not-For-Profit into the 21st Century by Peter C. Brinckerhoff. (Alpine Guild, Inc., P.O. Box 4846-D, Dillon, CO 80435. 800-869-9559. 1995. $29.95)

Even in the best of times, running a nonprofit organization is a challenge. In times of diminishing resources and rapidly changing ground rules, successfully managing a community-based organization (CBO) becomes far more difficult. However you measure success – paying staff, growing your organization, or taking on new and more ambitious projects – attaining it will depend on your ability to professionally manage your organization.

But many of us come to community organizations with a desire not to run a company but to create social change. The skills we bring to address the needs or our community are often not the ones we need to grow an organization or manage it on a day to day basis.

Peter C. Brinckerhoff’s new book, Mission-Based Management – Leading Your Not-For-Profit into the 21st Century, provides an excellent overview of nonprofit management practices that should be useful to both new and experienced CBO managers.

Brinckerhoff begins his book by defining nine key components of a successful nonprofit. These include developing a viable mission (one that is “definable, understandable, supportable and needed”); building a businesslike Board of Directors; cultivating a strong and well-educated staff; developing a tight set of management and financial controls; learning how to market the organization; and building a strategic plan – a vision – for the future. Another of Brinckerhoff’s keys is for CBO managers to become “social entrepreneurs,” developing multiple sources of income from which to draw. And finally, he defines the ability to adjust rapidly to changing circumstances as an essential component of success.

The author devotes one or two chapters to each of these components. He lays out clear definitions of each and simple strategies for attaining them. In his chapters on boards, for example, he lucidly describes the key functions of a board, the types of individuals who join boards and their reasons for doing so, and how to mobilize their talents to benefit your organization.

Brinckerhoff explains how to recruit board members, how to structure meetings and committees to optimize their time and usefulness, and how they can best work with staff. He defines the range of financial and legal liabilities boards have and offers useful guidance for executive directors who want to minimize a board’s micro-management while maximizing their participation.

Scattered throughout the book are examples illustrating Brinckerhoff’s points and “hands on” exercises. In addition to the book, Brinckerhoff has also written an “Organizational Self-Assessment” tool. This brief pamphlet provides questions, based on the book’s chapters, that groups can use to analyze their own organizations. If you’ve read the book carefully, however, you should be able to put together your own assessment tools based on the items and concerns identified in the book.


For a considerably more in-depth examination of financial management, take a look at Richard F. Wacht’s Financial Management in Nonprofit Organizations, 2nd edition. (Georgia State University Business Press, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303-3093. 1991.)

This book is targeted to the financial managers of larger organizations. As CBOs and other housing providers assume more projects, their operating budgets become larger and more complex, rivaling many moderate-sized businesses. This book defines the financial rules that govern nonprofits and the similarities and differences in financial management between the for-profit and the not-for-profit world. It then goes on to show how those tools are implemented and used to make the financial decisions needed to drive an organization. The book concludes by showing how nonprofits in “financial distress” can be successfully rescued. If you have a financial background and are responsible for the financial management of your nonprofit, this should be a very useful book.


Thinking of selling T-shirts? How about starting a home repair service or a day care center? If your organization is considering starting any kind of enterprise to create income for your primary service, take a look at The Nonprofit Entrepreneur–Creating Ventures to Earn Income, edited by Edward Skloot. (The Foundation Center, 79 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003. 1988. $19.95).

This small, accessible book takes you through the fundamentals of starting a business, from clearly defining what your venture is and how it fits with the mission of your nonprofit organization, through developing a business plan, raising money, and marketing your product or service. Each chapter– written by different, experienced social entrepreneurs–is full of detail and real world examples. There’s even a healthy reality check in the discussions on taxes and risks associated with money-making (or losing) ventures, and a very useful reference section. If your organization is planning a venture, read this book.

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