There is something about the nature of philanthropic work that makes it inherently difficult to define. Nonprofit staff members wear multiple hats and work diligently to ensure the communities they serve receive the essential services their organization provides. And while staff members are entrenched in their work and deeply understand their role, succinctly defining the organization’s overarching mission can be a challenge.
Here’s a news flash for nonprofit leaders and communication professionals – it is not your employees’ job to create and define the organization’s mission. This information should be provided to them clearly and repeatedly, starting on their first day of work.
This challenge begets a new one: How do you begin to define your organization’s mission, especially when the work you do is multifaceted? I have three tips to help you get started.
- Boil your work down to one core goal.
While your organization has multiple initiatives, programs and offerings, you need to define the one core goal you strive toward. Gather diverse opinions by engaging employees, volunteers and members of your board. You may find that there is (or isn’t) a consensus on your ultimate organizational goal. You’ll want to name your goal in simple terms: reducing poverty, increasing educational access, preventing the spread of disease, etc.
- Craft a memorable mission statement that points to your purpose.
I call it a mission statement, but what I should call it is a mission sentence. Develop one succinct, descriptive sentence you can use throughout all of your materials. That’s the beauty of this sentence – no matter the program, offering, event or service you’re promoting, this sentence will always be relevant because it speaks to the core of what your organization does.
Take your time crafting this sentence. Create multiple options and test them among your internal audiences. You want it to feel natural and true to your brand. Be especially mindful of distancing or inadvertently demeaning language when referring to the people you serve.
- Equip your team – staff, volunteers, board and donors – with the language at every touch point.
Once you’ve landed upon a mission sentence, hold a formal meeting with all of your key audiences to announce the new language. Encourage them to commit it to memory. Consider adding it your email signatures, posing it in your office, adding it to your website and incorporating it into your social media account bios. You want this statement to serve as the driving statement for your organization.
Still having trouble defining your work? We understand and we can help. Email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.