Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finalists in the Great Mission Statement Competition

Which one is your favorite?

Last week we selected six semi-finalists in the What’s Your Mission? Competition and presented them in our webinar What’s a Mission Statement Worth? From these six excellent statements, webinar attendees helped us to select three finalists.

Take a look at the finalists (below) and pick your favorite. Either e-mail your comments or post them to this blog. We'll announce the winner at the end of the month.

Also note that we’re leaving the Mission Statement Makeover category open until October 26. If you’d like some advice and guidance on revising your mission statement, submit it by clicking here.

During the webinar we described the role of a mission statement, noted its critical characteristics, and shared examples of different kinds of successful—and almost successful—ones.

Briefly summarized, a mission statement has external and internal functions.

Externally, a mission statement is a branding and positioning tool that gets and holds the attention of the public, and underpins the case for giving.

Internally, a mission statement should inspire stakeholders, provide clarity and focus for operations, fortify strategic thinking, structure planning (strategic, program, business, technology…), and point to metrics that will indicate successes.

Some mission statements are very close to taglines, primarily aimed at grabbing attention; others are crafted more to differentiate one organization from others in the same field. Each nonprofit has its own set of issues, and somewhat different needs from its mission statement. But in broad terms, a mission statement should articulate the essence of why your organization exists. It can encompass what you are, but should avoid what you do and how. It should be accurate (specific, sufficiently broad, appropriately focused), accessible (concise, simply stated, jargon-free) and effective (differentiating, memorable, compelling).

For more detail on these points you can access the slides or a recording of the webinar and/or take a look at Critical Issues #7, On Mission.

The Finalists:

Girls’ LEAP Self-Defense
Empowering girls and young women to value and champion their own safety and well-being.

In 14 words, Girls’ LEAP meets the above criteria of a good mission. Competition judge Michele Levy says: “The statement helps me quickly understand who they are, and uses concise, compelling language that encourages me to dig deeper.” Discounting three “ands” and a “to”, all of the words in the statement are high-impact, defining the purview of the organization and its intentions.

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Inspire and motivate our children to achieve their full potential in the fields of science, technology, medicine and engineering.

A mature institution that remains focused on its founding idea “to inspire the inventive genius in everyone,” the Museum of Science and Industry has adopted a statement that “is clear enough to help guide decision-making within the organization at all levels. However, it is open-ended enough that it is inclusive to everyone in our organization as a whole. For example, we develop exciting exhibits to inspire and create a sense of awe. Then we capture that inspiration and leverage it by offering additional learning opportunities with more in-depth science programs for students, teachers and families. Our entire organization is familiar with this statement and how our daily work contributes to realizing it.” Those are excellent intentions for a mission statement, and are captured nicely in it.

…reduce social isolation, enhance the quality of life, and preserve the dignity of elders and adults with disabilities in the greater Boston area.

This statement, while concise enough to be memorable, and broad enough to allow the organization to develop new programs and approaches, offers a clear framework for planning and metrics. Competition judge Debra Askanase says, “Each of the 3 objectives is described strongly and clearly. The mission statement evokes the emotion and the power of both the problem and the ideal outcome.”

All three finalists meet competition judge Tina Cincotti’s criteria, “You want a mission statement that sticks—that’s simple, specific, emotionally compelling, and jargon-free.”