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Discovering Your Nonprofit Mission

In a previous episode, we discussed the writing of your nonprofit vision. If your vision is the result of what your nonprofit organization wants to accomplish, your mission is the way you intend to do so. A mission is your primary assignment and provides you with a stable framework that will help you realize your vision. It can be communicated to anyone in one statement and keeps your team focused on the road ahead. It also makes detailed strategic planning possible.

For the purposes of this episode, we will be working with the following vision statement from Save the Children:

“Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development, and participation.”

Break Your Vision into Parts

The first step of designing your core mission is to examine the vision of what you want to accomplish. Breaking your vision down into components will help you to see what work needs to be done more clearly. We aren’t looking for flowery words or cliché concepts. We are trying to design a workable mission that a team of people can accomplish to change the world.

In our example vision statement, we see the following individual components:

  • Every child attains the right to survival
  • Every child attains the right to protection
  • Every child attains the right to development
  • Every child attains the right to participation

The challenge is now to determine what your ultimate mission will be to see that vision become a reality. What do you need to do long term to see a world where it matches your vision? Write down everything that comes to mind. Here are some examples of what you might write down:

  • Protect children in emergencies
  • Protect children from exploitation
  • Ensure children have quality care
  • Ensure children succeed in school
  • Ensure children make healthy choices
  • Ensure children have hope
  • Ensure children are literate
  • Ensure children experience and express through art

Write every idea you have without worrying about consolidating until you are done.

Consolidate Your Ideas and Simplify Your Language

Now the challenging part will be to bring those ideas together into a cohesive and singular mission. Ask yourself what the ideas have in common and how they work together to create a unified result. This will take some time and debate with your team.

Ask yourself:

  • What changes need to take place for these things to happen?
  • Can one of these ideas help accomplish the other?
  • What overall goal encompasses all these objectives?
  • What is the common thread?

Here’s what Save the Children came up with:

“To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.”

Remember, you aren’t trying to list all your ideas in your mission statement. Those ideas are simply objectives and initiatives within a larger mission. That larger mission of your nonprofit is what you are trying to uncover.

Use Powerful Words to Express Complex Thoughts

When you create your mission statement, it’s important to make it as short as possible so that you and your team can remember it easily. It should fit into one or two short sentences that can be quickly consumed and understood. When you are limited to using the least words possible, every word will count. They should be words that fully encompass the thought you are trying to convey.

In the example above, every word is intentional. Save the Children wants to “inspire breakthroughs” and wants to see “immediate and lasting results”. That makes what they intend to do very clear.

Final Thoughts

With a well-thought-out mission, your team can strategize and mobilize to accomplish it. As a leader, the mission will keep you focused when ideas and suggestions are tempting you to veer in a different direction. Include your mission statement in everything you do internally. Post it up on a wall as a caption in a picture or graphic that depicts it. Plan your strategies and goals around the mission and get to work!

Bonus Action Point: Type your mission statement in a PowerPoint slide. Then, go to Google Images and find an image that depicts your mission in the best way possible. Insert that into the PowerPoint slide as the background and print it. Hang it on your wall over your desk as a constant reminder.

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