Quick! Write down your mission statement. No cheating. Just from memory.
Did you do it? Did you miss any language or concepts? Was your mission statement so overwhelming that you didn’t try?
We ask this question in every one of our Best Practices in Nonprofit Management classes and only very rarely do we find someone in the room that is able to perform this task accurately. And, that’s a problem.
A nonprofit’s mission statement is its covenant with the public trust; the promise of the work we nonprofit leaders will do to earn the privilege of not paying taxes on the revenue our organizations generate. Mission statements are the guide by which we measure and evaluate which programs to offer, whom to hire, what services to stop offering, and which funding sources to pursue. Without a clear and specific mission statement to guide them, many nonprofits unwittingly over-extend themselves, undermine their impact, or accept grants that tragically become more prohibitive than helpful to their work.
If your nonprofit’s board of directors hasn’t conducted a thoughtful review of its mission statement in the last 3-5 years, it’s time to do so now. And, if you have reviewed your mission statement but it’s still too long to memorize, it’s time to review it again.
In their Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Mission Matters Most,” Kim Jonker and William F. Meehan III, cite the greatest saboteur for most nonprofit mission statements as the desire to be overly broad. They stress that clarity is the most important component of a mission statement and outline seven key characteristics you can use to evaluate your nonprofit’s mission statement:
- It is focused.
- It solves unmet public needs.
- It leverages unique skills.
- It guides trade-offs.
- It inspires, and is inspired by, key stakeholders.
- It anticipates change.
- It sticks in memory.
If your nonprofit’s mission statement doesn’t meet these criteria, let Spokes help you change it! Join us for our new classes, “How to Facilitate Meaningful Conversations About Your Mission” on January 10, 2017 and “Writing an Inspiring Mission Statement” on February 28, 2017. Remember, your mission statement is crafted by folks internal to your nonprofit, but it is driven and inspired by the folks – clients, beneficiaries, and stakeholders – who are external to your organization. Refining your mission statement will require you to solicit feedback, to listen, to be thoughtful and to be patient with the process. It will take some time to conduct a good mission revision, so start now and register for these classes today!
Link to article: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/mission_matters_most