Work Versus Mission

What work do we actually do?

Aligning the charity’s work to its mission.

Work Chart
Work Chart

Do all your programs line up with your mission?  For many charities, the answer is “not quite”.  There are all kinds of historical, personal and diplomatic reasons why an organization might have programs or events that are not directly traceable to the organization’s strategic goals.  The programs and events may be worthwhile in themselves.  They just don’t reflect the current mission.

When I had to develop a budget for a new client, I stumbled across a simple tool that sparked a good conversation about the charity’s work.

The Organization Work Chart

What you do is create an organization chart based on work instead of people, like the simplified one above.  At the top you have the box for the whole organization.  The next level has the charitable objectives and Administration.  Below that can be more detailed objectives or the programs / events themselves.

In an organization going through significant changes in operations or staff, this budgeting exercise can ensure that smaller programs that might otherwise be forgotten get included in the budget discussions.  A simple overview diagram helps people see the whole organization, particularly when there are shared responsibilities for programs.

Staff Response

Budgeting can be a mysterious process for a lot of people.  But when staff sees the revenues and expenses in the context of their specific work, the budget starts to make sense.  Estimating the money required for a bite sized piece of work is much easier than trying to budget for a whole department at once.  In addition, staff can see their work in the context of the broader organization’s work.  They see how programs align to each other and to the strategic goals.

Another advantage to a work based organization chart is that it is easier to move responsibilities around.  In the simple example above, the charity would typically have a manager for each goal, i.e. Research, Education, Assistance and Admin.  But the reality may be quite different.  For example, John might have kept the hostel program when he transferred to Education, something which no longer makes sense.

Analyzing the chart may highlight gaps and opportunities in the organization.  For example, it might become clear that there is a lot more fundraising work being done in Research and Assistance than Education.

Board Response

The two main responses I heard from the Board of Directors were:

  1. I had no idea we were doing all that.
  2. Why are we doing all that?

Breaking the work down into chunks and organizing them by strategic goal was as useful to the Board as the budget documents in assessing the immediate year and the overall direction of the charity.

Conclusion

As fond as I am of detailed financial schedules, sometimes an overview diagram is more effective.

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