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Saturday, January 20, 2018

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The Trouble with "Passion for the Mission"
Jan Masaoka

February, 2013

"Passion for the mission is a must" . . . so say many job announcements and board member requirement lists. Wait a minute. Let's examine this sacred cow cliche a little more.

First, is "passion for the mission" enough to make someone a good board member, good executive, good staffperson? Of course not. Someone may have a deep passion for children's health, yet not be interested in a particular pediatric clinic or a toxics prevention organization. So we know that passion isn't enough.

But is passion even necessary? Is it really an important first screen through which candidates must pass?

Actually, all of us have small embers glowing within us for many, many causes. We care about children's health, about the disappearance of small bookstores, about icecap melting, about human trafficking, about seed diversity, about freedom of the press. When the right breath blows on an ember, it flares into a burning passion.

But it's not exactly "passion for the mission." For most nonprofit staff and volunteers, it's closer to passion for the success of this organization and the work it does. In fact, as volunteers we are often surprised by how much we find ourselves caring about an organization and the people involved with it. We find we have joined a community of shared values and dreams, and we care tremendously about that community.

So let's skip the over-used "passion for the mission" and instead look for -- and recognize in ourselves -- caring about the work of the nonprofit we are involved with and the people it affects. Let's look for board members are staff who have embers for the mission, and remember that it takes time and circumstance for an ember to burst into flame. And finally, let's remember that a passion flower can remind us of the passion of Christ, a clock (Middle East), or the Wheel of Fate (Turkey). Or it can simply be a beautiful flower that awakens affection and delight within us.

Visit Jan Masaoka and Blue Avocado at


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