for your mission statement, try this little trick

One Clever Way to Upgrade Your Mission Statement

Nonprofit CEOs tend to have strong feelings about their organizational mission statements. They usually think they have a terrific, powerful statement, that makes them stand out and sets them up for great and wonderful achievement and excellence. This is especially true if they wrote the thing, which is very often the case.

Unfortunately, a lot of mission statements don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Many (most?) of them don’t carry the freight. Can someone read your mission statement and know what action or behavior flows from it? Let me say that differently. Can someone who knows nothing about your organization read your mission statement and know what action or behavior flows from it? 

So here’s a little trick. Try it. Find a reasonably-intelligent person who knows nothing about your organization. Maybe they don’t even know it exists. Maybe you are a stranger to them, or they hardly know you. Hand them your mission statement on a piece of paper and say, “Could I ask a little favor? This is the mission statement of an organization, probably an organization you have never heard of. Just from reading this statement, what can you tell me about this organization?” Listen carefully to their initial response. Don’t lead the witness. What did you just learn about your mission statement?

Mission statements are a big deal. Many organizations have key mottos, slogans, or tag lines that should be changed rarely or never. Mission statements should not be changed often or lightly, but yeah, find out if yours is broken and fix it.

The Jaffarian System for Strategic Planning includes taking a good, hard look at the organizational mission statement, vision statement, objectives, values, and the like – every year. You need to make sure those are still firm and good before you pursue the further evaluation and planning that flows from that crucial starting place.

One other tip, and this is (if I remember rightly) from Seth Godin. Your limit is eight words. More on that in another newsletter.

love, joy, peace … Michael Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation.

Vol. 1 No. 13

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