Episode 7 | Strategic Planning Step Three: Realize Your Future (Mission & Core Values)


On today’s episode we are talking about the second half of step 3, Realize Your Future, which relates to your Mission and Core Values.   Last week we talked about the first half of step 3, which is focused on your vision.  The difference between your vision statement and your mission statement is the vision is the end result and the mission is what you’re going to do to get there. 

Mission is our purpose and why we exist as an organization.  It’s about the people we serve through our programs and services.  When you’re thinking about your mission statement, you want to be specific with who you’re helping and where you’re helping (as in geographically).  One of the mistakes a lot of organizations make is they feel like they only have one chance to tell people what they do, which leads to cramming all of this information into a mission statement.  There are too many messages, it’s too long, it’s confusing, and people still don’t know what it is you do.  Remember, simple is always better.  If you can’t easily repeat your mission statement to someone while standing in the grocery line, chances are it’s just too much.  The object is to keep the statement short and concise; not filled with jargon and fluff.

When you sit down to come up with your mission statement, there are 3 questions you should ask:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. Whom do we serve?
  3. What do we produce as outcome benefits?

The first question addresses what makes your organization special or unique and how are you different from your competition.  Think of this as the basis for building a reputation among those you serve.  Why should they look to you instead of similar service providers?  The second question relates to the primary beneficiaries of your organization.  These are the people who are receiving direct, frequent services from your organization.  Finally, once you know who you are and who the primary demographic is, the third question is about expectations.  What do they (the beneficiaries) expect from us (the organization)?  It could be service, solutions, education, information, etc.  Once you’ve answered those 3 questions, it’s time to write out a statement.  A typical mission statement should look something like this:

Our mission is to serve (client/people) with the (programs and services) in order to achieve (why we exist).

Keep in mind that mission statements can change and evolve over time.  If your organization was founded 50 years ago, is the mission statement from then still relevant to the mission of today?  If not, then it’s time to develop a new statement that better reflects the current organization.  Remember, donors are interested in your relevance and keeping an outdated mission statement will affect the buy-in to your organization. 

After you’ve gotten your statement down on paper, it’s time to focus on core values.  Core values are simply what you believe in.  If you’re clear on your core values, they become critically important in how you’re recruiting people.  Knowing what’s important to you opens communication with potential volunteers and donors alike.  It’s easy to spot red flags if there’s a misalignment in what you value and what your volunteers value; especially if this person is a candidate for your board. 

Just as your mission statement, you should keep your core values simple by having no more than 3 words that have the most meaning to the organization.  The reason for using 3 words to represent your beliefs is because it’s very easy to remember.  A good exercise is to come up with a list of 50 values.  Then, each participant on your team chooses their top 5.  The key is for them to pick what’s important to them, not the organization.  This is an awesome exercise because there is a level of vulnerability that will help build trust within that group.  Once everyone has picked their top 5, then each person then shares with the group why these values are important to them.  The facilitator collects all the answers and comes up with the most common, could be a list of 15 at this point.  Then the group picks the top 5 from that list.  From there, those top 3 that have the most votes become the core values of the organization.  This is an easy process to walk through with your group and gets everyone to participate.

We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission.  If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club.  The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support.  For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.

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For more information about Mary Valloni, visit maryvalloni.com and to download our free Fundraising Freedom Roadmap, go to maryvalloni.com/roadmap. Get a copy of Mary’s book, Fundraising Freedom.

Interested in learning more about Joel Kessel?  Visit kesselstrategies.com to find out how Joel helps growth-minded leaders gain clarity.

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