Through many of our scopes, our team works with nonprofits to either affirm their current mission statement or facilitate a process to develop new mission, vision, and values statements for the organization.
Why does the language for mission statements matter? Isn’t it just semantics?
In our years of experience, we have witnessed gifts that have transformed individuals, organizations, and communities. We have seen financial generosity transcend estimations purely through the powerful connection of donor and mission.
All too often, mission statements are a long litany of things in paragraph format. The record we’ve seen was a client whose mission was 141 words. A statement that long is neither concise nor compelling. No donor is going to read that tome and say, “I’m writing a check to support that!”
Getting clear on “why” you do what you do — the essence of mission — rather than the means by which you do it — a description of activities — brings clarity for fundraising, planning, and operating the organization.
When we help clients craft new language, we are not changing the mission of the organization. Rather, we are writing a new narrative to get to the heart of why the organization exists. That’s an important distinction.
When a mission statement captures the essence of the organization’s purpose and is shared with enthusiasm, donors take notice.
Philanthropy is a voluntary action. Donors are not obligated to give to your organization. Instead of selling or persuading them to give, inspire them. Start with a carefully crafted mission to build the larger narrative. Donors want to align their values with your purpose and to understand the impact their gift will have on the people and places you serve. As Simon Sinek is famous for saying, “start with why.”
Here are some helpful tips for crafting and utilizing a mission statement to inspire giving:
- Count the words in your mission statement. If it’s more than 13 words, refer to Peter Drucker’s “Five Questions” book for inspiration on how to change it.
- Review your most recent appeal, acknowledgment, and stewardship letters. Are you using your mission statement in your donor communications, or do you avoid it?
- Use your next board meetings to ask how many board members know the mission statement and if any can recite it from memory. Does your board know that determining and advocating for the mission is their number one role and responsibility?
- Ask the same question at your next staff meeting and further probe about how staff members and departments contribute to mission fulfillment. How does the mission influence staff culture or impact a culture of philanthropy?
- When you create messages for your next donor meeting, note, or call, include the mission statement and gauge their reaction.
- Have donors or volunteers ever asked how you measure the mission’s impact or how your mission is distinct? If not, that’s a great conversation starter.
- Look around your organization’s facility. Is the mission statement part of a banner, mural, or posted in any location? If you don’t see it, neither will your volunteers and donors.
Let us know if these points inspire a new mission statement and new levels of philanthropic support from your donors.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO