These Advisory Letters describe the capacity building management practices that have enabled businesses and nonprofits to double their capacity every two to five years. We encourage Orange County’s nonprofit leaders to share these letters with their management team, their Board and its committee members to generate interest, ideas and actions that will increase their nonprofit’s capacity to serve more of the needs of our community.

The Executive Coaches of Orange County is a volunteer organization that was founded in late 2002. We are sponsored by the Orangewood Children’s Foundation’s CONNECT Project. Our cosponsors are the Orange County Chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Orange County Community Foundation.

Our vision is that Orange County’s nonprofits will develop the capacity to insure that everyone in the county is growing up and living in the healthy and supportive conditions that are conducive to them being responsible and involved members of our community. Does your nonprofit have a vision that states what you want our community to look like in the future? A vision statement should reflect your nonprofit’s ideals and values.

If a nonprofit does not have a vision of the future that it believes in, it has no reason to grow. In our business of coaching nonprofit leaders, one of the first things we do to get leaders talking about their vision for their community, sharing the values that they believe in with one another, and rekindling the desire to do more to serve their community. This is a “best practice”.

One of the mistakes that some nonprofits make is having a vision that is about themselves, and how they would like to be recognized. These kinds of visions have a limited usefulness. Most people that work in a nonprofit, or volunteer their time to serve on Boards, its committees, or in operations, do so out of a genuine desire to help others. A nonprofit’s vision should reflect those values of caring about others and the community that the nonprofit is trying to serve.

The second key element of a nonprofit’s philosophy and shared values is its mission statement. The mission statement is a long term strategic choice that a Board or management team makes. It defines the limited role that the nonprofit will play in moving the community towards its vision.

Our mission is to provide managers in Orange County’s nonprofits with Executive Coaches, at no cost, to help them develop and implement capacity building strategies that will enable them to fulfill more of their mission. This mission statement gives us even more focus. We want to work with managers in Orange County’s nonprofits, and we want to help them develop and implement capacity building strategies.

A focused mission statement can enhance the credibility of a nonprofit. It gives the organization a limited role or specialty at which it can excel. A focused mission statement defines a niche that differentiates it from other nonprofits, and minimizes duplications of effort among nonprofits. And it makes it easier for people outside the nonprofit to quickly and easily understand what the nonprofit does, making outreach and fund raising efforts more productive.

Some nonprofits make the mistake of having a very broad mission statement that does not exclude anything that they might like to do in the future. While these generic statements may be easy to create, they are not very helpful in clarifying a nonprofit’s unique and important role to its employees, volunteers, donors, clients, other nonprofits, or the community in which it operates. In our coaching practice, we encourage nonprofits to develop mission statements that reflect a well thought out strategic choice to excel at delivering very specific, unique and important service to a well defined niche of clients. This is a “best practice”.

A nonprofit’s mission and vision should clearly state what it intends to do for whom (the mission), and why it is important for it to do that well (the vision). These two brief statements of philosophy are the reason why a nonprofit should exist. The statements should continually be used to inspire everyone (the Board and its committee members, the management and staff, the volunteers, donors and the entire community) to do what they can to help the nonprofit grow and build its capacity to fulfill more of its important mission. This is a “best practice”.