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‘Nonprofits must “live into” their missions both externally and internally’: A commentary by Anika Rahman

January 29, 2022

Hands_in_suits_GettyImagesRenewing nonprofits: Aligning power, money, and vision

In the nonprofit world, power and money can be uncomfortable topics. While we are focused on doing good, questions of power and how it manifests inevitably arise. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to confront issues of democracy and justice, has also catalyzed a reckoning across the sector.

Today, most nonprofits have begun to realize that they must “live into” their missions both externally and internally — these concerns are interrelated. For example, while it’s clear that leaders and donors often shape priorities, how power is distributed and decisions are made (including those about compensation) are less widely and openly discussed.

Aligning an organization internally means ensuring that its mission and priorities are reflected in its leadership and governance values. First and foremost, consistency is desirable in any organization. Second, staff and donors are increasingly demanding internal policy changes — calling for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), transparency, and shared decision making — because of a greater awareness of the impact of these interconnected concerns on an organization’s strategies and brand. Finally, equitable internal principles help develop future cohorts of leaders who will continue to advance the organization’s mission, promote DEIB, and strengthen the larger movements of which it is a part.

Yet such alignment has proven elusive for many institutions: There is often a gap between an organization’s stated values and programmatic and internal realities....

Read the full commentary by Anika Rahman, an advocate for human rights, gender justice, social justice, and climate action who most recently served as chief board relations officer at the National Resources Defense Council.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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