Every non-profit begins with a dream…of curing a dread disease, helping people in need, building a stronger community, solving a social problem, and on and on. These dreams may come from personal experience, observation of the world around us or in response to outreach from people we love, respect or both.
It’s one thing to know in your heart what you hope to accomplish. It’s quite another to come up with a way to explain it simply, concisely and compellingly to others. Creating an effective mission statement can be a daunting task for even the most passionate leaders. I’ve seen hundreds of mission statements from all kinds of non-profits. From the good, the bad and the ugly I’ve distilled a few questions you should ask yourself as you work to create one that does justice to your dream:
1. Have you captured why you are creating this organization, what problem are you going to address, what outcome are you hoping to achieve?
2. Have you included language that touches people, moves them emotionally and intellectually?
3. Does your statement call out for action? Will anyone who reads it feel driven to pick up your cause?
4. Do you give people a sense that your organization will bring about positive change? What will be better because you exist?
5. And here’s the hardest question of all….Can you combine all of this into one crisp, clear and memorable sentence, one that you can recite at the drop of a hat and that will stick in your listener’s mind?
Developing a great mission statement isn’t easy. Test out your efforts with friends and supporters. Make sure that what you think you are saying means the same thing to everyone who hears it. Refine, refine, refine it until is sparkles. Once you have it, it will become the launchpad for everything else you do to build your non-profit.
Turning your dream into a well functioning, effective organization is a real challenge. For not-for-profits, just as for profit-driven businesses, there's a lot of territory to cover before the dream becomes a reality. Helping dreamers to get there, and stay there, is what we do at WEI.