Nonprofit leaders share the common responsibility of raising funds for their respective organizations. In determining the best approach, they may brainstorm various marketing and fundraising options to draw out large, supportive crowds. Such planning measures are important and necessary, but according to a recent Gallup poll, there may be a more basic starting point worth considering.
Gallup found that more than 80 percent of donors look to the mission statement of a charity or foundation when making a decision to contribute. In comparison to donors who do not consider the mission statement important, these individuals are twice as likely to donate a second time within a year. So how might a nonprofit go about strengthening its mission statement? Establishing a definition is an important place to start.
Mission statements, simply put, comprise a brief summary of the purpose and goals of an institution, but certain factors can influence their efficacy. One is the vision statement, which often appears alongside the mission statement in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. In some cases, organizations and companies include a value statement, but more often than not, this third category overlaps with the mission statement. Thus, groups most frequently list their mission and vision.
A basic distinction between the mission and the vision is that the former answers “Why have an organization?” and the latter answers “What will the organization change?” Missions focus more on an intellectual appeal to the audience, while visions generally convey the emotional aspects, or the heart, of a particular cause. Notwithstanding these differences, one consultant suggests consolidating the two statements into one whenever possible.
Greater clarity is achieved by having a single, comprehensive statement, and this strength can generate more of the dedicated support an organization needs to reach its objectives. Here are seven points to consider when drafting your mission statement.
Harness the power of one.
As mentioned, clarity is the result of combining the mission and the vision into one statement. Oftentimes, organizations with separate statements inadvertently create a competition between the two, which can lead to either one being forgotten or opening up an unwanted conflict. A concise clause that reflects both the mission and the vision of a nonprofit supports structure within the organization and increases donor appeal.
Paint a trajectory.
Answering the question “Why have an organization?” includes telling people who you are (e.g., an advocacy group for improving education). The identity of an organization says quite a bit about it, from its membership to the issue(s) they plan to address. A mission outlines the purpose of the nonprofit for everyone involved, and as such, it should be written in plain, understandable terms, so as to avoid confusion and contention.
Mission statements should cover the spectrum of the present and the future. In other words, the clause should not only address why the organization formed but also with what ultimate goal. This is where the vision statement comes into play. Does the charity have an anticipated timeline for its objectives? Does the organization anticipate a maintenance period after having achieved its purposes? The answer to these types of questions, in its most basic form, should be infused into the mission statement.
A well-crafted mission statement serves as the template for the operation of a nonprofit. Because mission statements are intended to be clear-cut and easily accessible, they necessarily leave out the specific details of an organization. But each aspect of a program or initiative should point back to the general statement. Leaders and board members should make decisions that align with the mission, and donors should be able to connect the purpose of a fundraising event, for example, to the mission of the charity.
Unify staff members and donors.
Unity is a logical byproduct when nonprofit leaders, team members, and supporting patrons have a strong mission statement as their foundation. People new to the organization will understand the what and why behind their duties, and contributors will feel more confident in how their money is spent.
Set the evaluation benchmark.
Every organization must hold itself to the standard set forward in the mission statement, and each effort should be measured against that benchmark. Did the event last weekend move us closer to our ultimate goal? Is our marketing strategy yielding the desired results? The mission statement creates accountability, and it allows people involved in any capacity to measure their work.
Encourage necessary change.
When evaluations are made and a certain program or initiative fails to measure up, nonprofit leaders can rely on the mission statement to motivate the organization to make changes. People involved in charitable causes invest a lot of time and energy; persuading them to try a different route can be difficult. But a solid mission statement is perhaps the best tool to remind them of the overarching purpose and the importance of doing whatever it takes to get there, even if it means charting a new course.