What Story Does Your Mission Statement Tell?

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Guest post by Lauren Pope, Marketing Associate at Truman Heartland Community Foundation

Quick! Without looking, do you know your organization's mission statement? Does your organization have a mission statement to begin with? Maybe most importantly, do you know how long ago your organization updated its mission statement?

These questions may seem unimportant in the hustle and bustle of your day to day work but your nonprofit's mission statement is actually one of the most important marketing tools your organization can have. Your mission statement is the first introduction someone who is unfamiliar to your organization has to the work you do.

Does your mission statement accurately reflect who you are as an organization? If not, it may be time to sit down with your team and work on revamping your mission statement. Reworking a mission statement or creating one from scratch can seem intimidating to someone who has never done it before. But with a few easy steps and some collaborative teamwork, any organization can create a fantastic mission statement that tells a story.

Agree As a Group On The Basics

A good mission statement should say three things as simply as possible.
1. Who you are.
2. What you do.
3. Who you impact.

Your mission statement is your elevator pitch. You should be able to recite it to a stranger who is unfamiliar with the work you do and have them walk away with a better understanding of who you are as an organization. That starts with agreeing on the very basics of what your organization and what you do.

Take an Assessment of Your Current Mission Statement

Now that you and your team agree on what your mission statement should say, it’s time to see what it actually says. Some mission statements don’t need to be scrapped entirely and can be updated with a few minor tweaks. Other organizations have evolved so far beyond their old mission statement that starting from scratch makes more sense.

Get together with your colleagues and talk through your current mission statement. Would someone outside your organization understand what you’re trying to say? How does it look to an outside observer? Does it tell the story of what your nonprofit actually does? This is the step in the process to bring up questions you’ve been sitting on and provide constructive feedback.

Here are a few of the questions you need to ask yourselves as a group in this stage of the process.

1. What story is our mission statement telling?
2. Does our current mission statement accurately reflect the work we do?
3. What about our mission statement works? What can we keep? What do we get rid of?

Keep It Simple
Now that you have your ideas in place, it’s time to write. The biggest mistake people make with a mission statement is overcomplicating things. Avoid using industry terms, acronyms, and buzzwords. Your mission statement is an external marketing piece designed to inform the public about who you are and what you do.

You want to keep things as crisp and simplistic as possible. People should walk away from a conversation about your mission with a better understanding, not more confusion!

Mission Statement Examples

Example One: Teddy Bears United is a 501(c)(3) charity that focuses on improving the lives of children diagnosed with cancer by providing them comfort and support through our Teddy Bear donation service to area hospitals.

    Who are they? Teddy Bears United
    Who do they serve? Children with cancer at area hospitals
    What do they do? Provide comfort and support through annual teddy bear donations

Example Two: Kids Creating Change is an after-school program for the Appleton School District designed to educate students about community needs and involve them in community service work and volunteering in their community.

    Who are they? Kids Creating Change
    Who do they serve? Appleton School District and the surrounding community
    What do they do? Educate children about volunteerism and community needs

This may seem like a lot of work for such a small part of what your organization does. But your mission statement can help you in every part of your nonprofits work. A clear, well-written mission statement can help attract new donors, educate people in the community, or even increase your chances of receiving grant funding. Remember, people are more likely to get involved with the work you do if they understand the story you’re trying to tell.
 
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