What Are the Core Problems that You Solve?

It’s easy to try to be everything for everybody.

Large companies do it. Small companies do it. Nonprofits do it. For-profits do it.

But in order to serve your mission in your community, in order to be the best in your world at what you do, you cannot be everything for everybody. It’s simply impossible.

We all too often get sidetracked from doing the things we are primarily called to do – our vision or mission – by things that are apparent opportunities.

These “opportunities” are not opportunities at all. They can be one of the following:

  • Someone else’s priorities shoved onto you and your organization.
  • An easier task that distracts from your true mission and the best work you can do for your community (although the best work just might be the hardest work).
  • An activity that seems to be  where the “competition” is heading, but really has nothing to do with who you and your organization are.

Does it fulfill your vision and mission?

Another way of looking at all this vision and mission stuff is to think about what problems your nonprofit solves. What questions do you answer? Where do you bring healing or opportunity or enrichment to your community?

Can you envision the person that your nonprofit was created to serve? Can you consider the core problems that you hope to solve for that person?

Are you doing the work that solves those problems?

If you’re doing other things that don’t serve the work of solving those problems, why are you letting yourself and your organization become distracted?

Why do the people you are chartered to serve need you?

If you’re not doing the things that answer that question, then stop and refocus.

Here is an exercise that might help you identify and focus on the core problems your nonrpofit solves

  • Think about your ‘ideal’ client or customer or student. Take about 5-10 minutes and write out her or his story – as if you were her or him. Write a letter from that person to your organization, asking for the help that your organization provides.
  • Can you come up with 2 or 3 key issues that that person would want help with?
  • Those are the problems that are at the core of your mission.
  • Do the work that those problems require.


Questions – Leave a response in the comments

What problems do you solve?

Why do you get easily distracted?


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