Telling Your Story with the Mission Model Canvas

Jarrod Lowery

Jarrod Lowery

Jarrod is a Strategy Consultant and Business Designer at Do Tank

Every organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, has a business model. At Do Tank, we believe that if you use your resources and relationships to create value for others, you have a business model. But some organizations certainly have more than just a business model – they have a mission model.

Practitioners of human-centered design will be very familiar with the Business Model Canvas – it’s the tool that launched an industry and brought clarity to what was long a murky conversation. Readers may know that this tool helps users articulate how their organization creates, delivers, and captures value in the course of its work. The BMC can be applied in a range of scenarios, from understanding a company’s current state to analyzing how a department functions, to crafting the future of a business. Many of these characteristics are true of the Mission Model Canvas as well, but the MMC goes further: it allows a nonprofit team to look at their structure from a purely mission-driven perspective.

Describe How Your Non-Profit Delivers Value

The Mission Model Canvas accounts for an nonprofit’s unique circumstances and goals by reconfiguring elements of the familiar BMC. Instead of using purely businesslike language, such as “customer segments” and “customer relationships,” the MMC broadens the discussion to think about “beneficiaries,” as well as “buy-in and support.” We know many nonprofits are not comfortable thinking of their beneficiaries simply as customers, and this tool acknowledges that reality.

In addition to going beyond the language of “customers,” the mission model canvas reimagines the notion of “revenue” and instead considers “outcomes that impact.” While businesses and nonprofits both have a cost structure, the “money flowing in” side of the equation looks different for the two types of organization.

Nonprofits must bring in funding to accomplish their work, but maximizing this funding is not always the goal. Rather, nonprofits are looking to create certain changes in the communities they serve, and they strive to measure their impact – knowing that funding is merely a means to this higher end. With the mission model canvas, this part of the discussion can take place and sits comfortably next to the discussion of beneficiaries and how best to reach them.

Describe How Your Non-Profit Creates Value

The back end of a Mission Model Canvas is no less important than the front end. It helps users answer the crucial question “How do/will we create these outcomes and achieve this impact for our beneficiaries?” First, it asks users to consider the key resources they have in-house – their talent, brand, intellectual property, and physical assets. Next, the MMC asks for the key activities that an organization undertakes in the course of using these resources, which might include fundraising, long-range planning, service delivery, and day-to-day activities. Third, the canvas prompts users to consider their key partners – the entities that own the assets or carry out the activities your nonprofit prefers not to have in-house. Rounding out this side of the canvas is the cost structure referred to above; this crucial piece challenges users to think about what might be the most significant costs, as well as the ones worth keeping an eye on – for the organization’s financial health.

Time to act!

When a team of users can put all of these pieces together, it can lead to a truly fruitful conversation – one that illuminates the key drivers of an organization’s success or its current challenges. Whether one uses this tool to understand their current state, to dig deeper on a single initiative, or to design the future of their organization, it will catalyze a powerful discussion and prompt deep thinking about what should happen next. Happy mission-modeling!

Download your copy of the Mission Model Canvas and share this tool with your team!