For the Mission Statement Makeover component of last falls Great Mission Statement competition, we invited a few of the entrants to explore a rewrite with us. Here is one of the discussions.
Daddys Corner mission is to change the lives of low-income and disadvantaged youth by focusing on strengthening community and creating programs that encourage and aid the involvement of young fathers in their childrens lives.
Comment from Daddys Corner
This is actually our second attempt at our mission statement. We really feel like once we can get a mission statement that effectively describes our organizational purpose, it would really help us to build our organizational culture. We think this is so important as we are moving into our next phases of growthwe are still a relatively young nonprofit but have made tremendous gains in our short organizational history.
My initial question is what is your fundamental purpose?
- to involve young fathers in their childrens lives?
- to change the lives of low-income and disadvantaged youth ?
- to strengthen community?
Our primary focus is young fathersempowering them to make good decisions and accept the adult responsibilities of being a parent. We use a responsible fatherhood modelwhich includes knowing WHEN it is the right time to become a parent (many of our young men are at risk of becoming a young father but have not as of yet(.
However, the issues around young fathers are so extensive that much of our work is done around strengthening fragile families. This is why it has been a challenge to narrow down a mission statement.
We use food and nutrition as the cornerstone to all our programming. It permeates living a healthy lifestyle and fits within all of our initiatives. Our tagline is redefining life on the corner because we want our young men to know that being outside doesnt have to mean being on the corner. (**associate a corner lifestyle with someone who is under-educated, under-employed, may be gang-affiliated, may have a record, may be involved in street activities, spends time hanging out outside with negative influences).
Clearly you have a complex situation and multiple objectives. The fundamental question is Why are you doing this? The answer may get you to a level that underlies both promoting responsible fatherhood and strengthening fragile families, both of them pretty powerful ideas, but maybe there is an even more fundamental one.
Then responsible fatherhood and strengthening fragile families might end up either as part of the mission statement or part of a vision statement that we can look at once we pin down the mission statement a bit more.
I like the fact that your tagline can lend another dimension to whatever ends up being the mission statement.
In response to your question, ultimately, we are doing this for the kids. We work with fragile families where cycles of poverty are inter-generational. The model we use is Growing a Responsible Father. Becoming a responsible father doesnt happen overnight. It starts with young boys having good relationships with their fathers that serve as strong, positive role models. So by working with young men that are at risk of fathering kids or young fathers, we are hoping to change the trajectory of the next generation (and so forth).
We feel that kids today are missing the basicssolid functional relationships with their biological fathers, character traits such as perseverance and integrity, and an understanding of a healthy lifestyle based on a healthy self-esteem. Our young men are battered by dysfunctional relationships, stereotyped by media, and ingrained with these cycles of poverty. Without intervention, there isnt hope to make a lasting legacy of change.
In a mission statement, using as few words as possible and letting as much as possible be implied by them is always best. The problem, of course, is deciding which those words are.
Here are two initial options:
Our mission is to change the lives of low-income and disadvantaged youth by strengthening community and encouraging the involvement of young fathers in their childrens lives.
By encouraging responsible fatherhood we will change the lives of low-income and disadvantaged youth and strengthen our community.
To me, in both cases the words I removed are implied by the ones that are left, but they still seem too wordy.
Cutting back even further to the essentials:
Our mission is to strengthen our community by encouraging responsible fatherhood.
This implies the role of youth in the (metaphorical) space between fatherhood and community.
Or to pick up on another aspect of what you mentioned:
Our mission is to change our community by strengthening fragile families.
But leaving out mention of fathers and children may be going too far.
In any case, the mission statement is only the core. It is the memorable, compelling statement, but when you put it on your website or in print it can have more detail beneath. How about this:
Our mission is to change the lives of low-income and disadvantaged youth.
We do this by:
- encouraging the involvement of young fathers in their childrens lives
- building character traits such as perseverance and integrity in children through solid functional relationships with their biological fathers
- strengthening fragile familes
- empowering young men to make good decisions and accept the adult responsibilities before becoming fathers
- creating a healthier community
Stay tuned. There may be more to this discussion.