Building a masjid structure is easy, but are we really building our masjids to last? If we truly want to see our masjids progress and grow we need to address the following areas.
1) A Lack of a Clear Mission and Vision Statement
Many times the mission and vision statements of masjids are fluff and lack substance. It may sound great, but if your donor base/target audience is asking itself “Ok, but what exactly do you do and how do you do it?” it’s a problem. A strong mission and vision statement alone can solve so many problems for masjids. Externally to the target audience and/or donor base it shows you have a strong idea and direction. Internally, in your organization it allows for your staff and volunteers to know what their focus is and what they’re working towards. It can also do wonders in terms of boosting efficiency, morale and work performance of staff and volunteers if they truly understand and buy-in to the mission and vision of your organization.
2) Strategic Planning
The second biggest problem is most masjids fail to do strategic planning. Many think simply starting a masjid is the end all and be all of their work. However, simply starting a masjid is only the beginning. We need to ask the tough questions :
“how will we sustain this operations 10 years down the road?” , “what direction do want to take 10 years down the road?”, “how and when do we want to expand operations?” , “can we hire staff in the near future and how?” “how will we measure our success and achievements”
Answering these questions and more can solve so many problems in the long term and also can build up confidence, morale and support amongst your target audience, donor base, supporters, staff, and volunteers.
3) Financial Sustainability
Financial sustainability is by far the heart of the problem when it comes to our masjids truly moving forward. It’s unfortunate that we see small staffs in masjids, Muslim organizations and Muslim institutions. Not only is this unsustainable, but it will eventually burn out your staff and make them lose morale, work performance and interest in their jobs. Also, if your staff or board of directors is constantly worried about whether there will be enough money to sustain operations it doesn’t allow them to think at a higher more strategic level to improve operations, services, programs and expansion.
Masjids need to look into self-sustaining financial sustainability models which may include corporate partnerships, real estate investments (residential and commercial), endowments, and other models. If we fail to look for long term financial sustainability for our institutions and organizations we will fail to grow, fail to expand and fail to become more effective in our services and programs.
4) Human Resource Sustainability
By far the most common mistake masjids make is allowing staff or employees to stay in a particular position for more than 10 years. This is a huge mistake and stagnates the growth of an organization or institution. Individuals who are in the same position for over 10 years need to be given a raise, promotion to a higher position or a retirement package or pension. The existence of staff or employees who have been in an organization or institution suffocates growth, expansion and innovation.
This is not to say that individuals who are in organizations or institutions for more than 10 years in the same position are doing awful jobs or their performances are lacking, but more often than not their mere existence in an organization without professional development or growth for them or upward movement in the organizational structure can severely hinder progress, growth, innovation and expansion. If we look at any major sports team the team always recruits and drafts younger players. Similarly, organizations and institutions need to look for top talent for the positions they’re looking for. This means not hiring the “good brother” or “good sister” who everyone says needs a job. Pity hiring isn’t a long term solution nor is it professional. Organizations and institutions need to hire based on experience, impact, skills and ability.
5) Retention of Talent & High Turnover
This brings us to the next point: losing amazingly talented individuals. Many Muslim institutions and organizations offer awful salaries and you’re lucky to find one that offers benefits. It’s unfortunate that we pay Muslim staff and employees less-than-competitive salaries with no incentives to perform at a high level which in turn impacts performance and the effectiveness of the organization as a whole. Due to this we see high turnover due to the frustration of staff and employees who don’t see any personal or professional growth in the institutions and organizations they are serving. While it is noble to sacrifice oneself for the community and work hard for the community or the target audience it’s not fair to pay less-than-competitive salaries to staff and employees while they can look for better jobs and career opportunities elsewhere.
In order to address this we need to retain talent and offer competitive salaries, benefits and offer professional growth opportunities.
6) A Lack of Transparency
One of the biggest discouraging factors for donors is a lack of transparency. This doesn’t just mean financial transparency, but operational transparency as well. When organizations or institutions lack financial transparency it makes donors think twice if not thrice about donating to you. It also may turn them away altogether from donating to your organization at all.
7) Communication with Community Members/Donors
Most masjids fail miserably with communicating with their community members/donors. This includes simply having a functional website, a functional email that gets checked consistently, an office that is fully staffed, a phone number that works and is answered and lastly keeping up with social media trends and using social media platforms effectively.
8) Quality Control & Accountability
Quality control and accountability is something that as Muslims is a part of our spiritual practice. We are exhorted to do the best job and perform at a high level with attention to detail. Unfortunately, we don’t always see this in our organizations and institutions. This includes keeping staff and board members accountable for their actions and responsibilities, ensuring programs and services are delivered with excellence and ensuring the “customer service” experience for all community members/donors/ is an amicable one.
9) Marketing & PR
Marketing and PR are often the last thing on the list of priorities for the masjid. However, having an effective marketing and PR capacity can help increase financial support, moral with your community members and also increase confidence overall in your organization’s work and brand.
Lastly, most masjids have programs, services and projects they feel will be the best for the community however most of the time they miss the mark. Many masjids haven’t done market studies or market research on their target market or end-user/beneficiary. Irrelevancy can lead to a waste of resources and lead to frustration with staff and board members who don’t see results of their hard work and effort. Simply understanding your market is a huge step in being effective in how to strategically deliver your services or programs.