Meeting the bottom line to keep organizations afloat is an ongoing pressure that rests on the shoulders of nonprofit leadership, year after year. At the reset of each fiscal year, leaders, both paid and volunteer, confront the recurring challenge of how to raise the funds to sustain their organization. Putting the intricate pieces to the puzzle together, organizational leadership hope to count on renewed support of loyal donors while expanding their networks and welcoming new funders into the fabric of their missions.

Coming from a fundraising background, I know this process all too well and am familiar with the fear-instilled expectations around meeting the goals— "or else." But on whose shoulders rests the ultimate responsibility of "or else?" Sure, one could argue it rests on the shoulders of the development professionals and the Executive Directors / Executive Leadership. But let's say "or else" happens, and the NPO's doors close. Sure, the professional leadership may lose their jobs—but who else would suffer? What about the beneficiaries of the mission? What about the board members? The overall cause? And if "or else" happens, was everyone aligned in sharing the responsibility of the mission and their duties of care to their NPO?

There is something to be said about taking a pause to re-align an organization around its mission and core work—particularly the "why and how." When daily work and decisions at an organization don't explain "why and how," it puts into question the work and reminds leadership of their true priorities. However, a challenge remains: How to get both professional and board leadership aligned?

Advancing Mission Thrivability is an opportunity presented by The Patterson Foundation (TPF) for regional nonprofits to learn a mission-centric, economically-informed approach to decision-making for their programs, products, and services. Participating organizations are introduced to this decision-making approach over a series of online learning opportunities. Following the online sessions, organizations with demonstrated interest, opportunity, and preparedness dive deeper into the work and receive 1:1 consulting support.

Within TPF's Nonprofit Thrivability initiative are three integral tracks on which NPOs can participate: Advancing Mission Thrivability (AMT), Fueling Dynamic Fundraising (FDF), and Margin & Mission Ignition (MMI). Through AMT, FDF, and MMI, NPOs come to discover that the struggles of one organization are collective struggles. By connecting, learning, and sharing, NPOs break down barriers and reach new understandings of themselves and their priorities by hearing the journeys of others with similar challenges. NPOs then confront the next challenge of understanding how best to evolve to ensure both internal and external alignment around their mission and their community's needs. That's easier said than done, but possible! That's where strengthening plays a crucial role in empowering the NPO to build momentum in their new ecosystem and be effective in their mission-driven impact.

I see AMT, FDF, and MMI as exemplary in how foundations can play a role in being a catalyst for sustainability—not through direct funding but through values-driven investment in leadership development and mission alignment. It is this type of investment that NPOs can sustain above and beyond a one-time grant. And as a result, NPOs' leadership realize the value of how much more they can accomplish together, having conversations that move the needle in what's possible and how we get there. From these conversations, awareness grows, re-alignment happens, and funding opportunities emerge.

Now, when someone on a board or in professional leadership says, "Well, you're the fundraiser, bring in the money for us," we will know better. We now understand that regardless of position, whether board member, professional leader, or staff member, we all play a role, and our mission-aligned approach will drive us in shifting the conversation to, "How can we help, and what can we do?" NPOs are more powerful when the board, professional leadership, and staff work together and feel equal responsibility to the NPO's mission. At TPF, we call that Mission Thrivability!

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