Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mission Statement Finalists

Help us pick the winner

Last week we selected six semi-finalists in the Second Annual 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 the finalists.

The voting was grouped so closely that we have selected four finalists instead of three. Please take a look at the finalists (below) and help us to select the best of the best. Either e-mail your comments or post them to this blog. You’re welcome to make a pitch for your organization’s mission statement, but no anonymous comments please. We will consider and post only attributed comments. We’ll announce the winner in mid-December.

We’ll also be in touch with all of the Mission Statement Makeover entrants by then.

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, 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 criteria for 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 explaining 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 a Mission.

The Panel

Four of our presenters in the Wednesday Webinar series helped me to select the semifinalists:

  • Amy Sample Ward is a blogger, facilitator and trainer focused on using social technologies to build and support strong communities. She is the Membership Director at NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network
  • Dalya Massachi helps nonprofit professionals advance their missions through fundraising and marketing materials—online and offline. Her recent book is entitled, "Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact”, and her consulting practice is Writing for Community Success.
  • Monica Collins is a nonprofit media and communications consultant. She started her career on staff at national and local newspapers. She appears on radio and syndicates a column nationally.
  • Rod Miller leads the global expert services firm Executive Institutional Advancement Exchange, bringing innovation and insight to empower leadership vision.

The Finalists

Cancer Connection is dedicated to encouraging and guiding people living with cancer and their loved ones along the cancer journey, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

Our panel recognized the vividness and positive attitude of the statement. I would add that it is framed in a way that forms a strong foundation for organizational strategy, a strategic plan, and meaningful metrics.
Dalya Massachi: “I like this! Clear direction and even creates a picture in the reader’s mind.”
Monica Collins: “Very good. Sublime, meaningful, heartfelt. How could anyone ask for anything more? ”
Rod Miller: “The statement hints nicely at the power to be found in why the organization exists.”

Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal offers lifelong tools to navigate uncertainty, build meaningful careers, and design courageous lives.

Amy Sample Ward: “I love that it is succinct yet provides pointed guides to where their programs and services will go.”
Rod: “Captures inspirational results tangibly.”
Taken with the organization’s name, this statement leaves little—or everything—to the imagination.

EDGE Outreach empowers ordinary people to provide safe, clean drinking water to the world.

Amy: “I really like that it includes both a direction for their work and a target for the audience/community to be involved.”
Monica: “Get it instantly. The mission statement is as crystalline as clean water.”
Both Dalya and Monica thought that the phrase water to the world feels a little too grand, compared to, say, water to those who need it, anywhere in the world. That is the dilemma of the mission statement—how to capture an essence minimally without losing specificity. Where that line is to be found is a matter of perception. Monica said that the statement piques her interest, and I agree that the simplicity of the statement and the promise of the approach combine to make me want to know more about the organization.

The mission of the Mohonk Preserve is to protect the Shawangunk Mountains by inspiring people to care for, enjoy, and explore the natural world.

Monica: “Very good. Very inspirational.”
Rod: “Nice focus on why your organization exists and the community need it serves.”
Amy: “I really like that they include a spectrum of engagement for the public.”
I especially like that it frames the specific cause (protecting one place) as having a much more general and life-enhancing effect. This is an unusual—and very effective—structure for a mission statement.

These are four exemplary statements. I would very much appreciate help in selecting the best of these best.