Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It’s a new year…is it time for a new mission statement? The leadership team of an older nonprofit asked about refreshing a mission statement. They had theirs for decades. People knew the mission statement; Even those who didn’t work at the nonprofit and could still repeat it. Yet, it wasn’t accurately describing the nonprofit since technology and culture changed around the nonprofit. So, they asked, “Are mission statements edited? How often? Where do we start?”
In short, yes, mission statements can be refreshed and edited. The best way to go about it is to review the bylaws and the articles of incorporation. Then, look at doing abbreviated strategic planning, thinking through the longest viewpoint possible with the board of directors. What are the strengths, weaknesses, external threats, and external opportunities? What does the nonprofit do well, and where does it struggle? What is the vision, and does the mission still get you there? Where is the gap in the community, and does your nonprofit still fill that hole?
One key element is to do the exercises with your board. As the governing body, they must vote in the new mission and if they were not part of the creation phase, you may have a harder time not only with buy-in but also planting the new mission in their hearts.
Owning the mission and keeping it in the hearts of board members, staff, clients, and volunteers will bring those people to treasure the nonprofit (see Luke 12:32-34 above). They will naturally join in the good work being done, whether that’s giving to the poor or otherwise. It all starts with a strong mission statement, and sometimes that statement needs a brushing up.
Often it’s not a simple 30-minute discussion to change a mission statement. Since it impacts so many more people than just the staff and board (ie, volunteers, donors, clients) and changes what is being reported on the 990, it’s worth being prayerful and thoughtful about before changing it. Maybe even fasting about it, should the mission swing the nonprofit in a new direction. In other words, it takes time.
Here’s something to consider; It’s often tempting for a group of people (the board) to fall into one of two traps:
1) The mission expands. The current mission statement already hits the heart of the group reviewing the mission statement and so they start adding to the one already approved. While it provides space to do new things and new programs, the mission gets diluted. Those that hear it for the first time get confused as to what the nonprofit actually does.
2) The mission doesn’t expand, but the number of words does to describe the reason for the organization. A mission statement should be repeatable and memorable. Generally, 5-7 words are ideal.
Therefore, it’s probably best to refresh your mission statement, or validate the current one, more frequently in a new nonprofit. Perhaps once a year at a board retreat, or every other year. And then, as time goes on, the nonprofit will don the mission statement comfortably. It will become the standard everyone can gather around. That means an older nonprofit may not need to review its mission statement except as the board sees fit, and that could be every decade or so.
So, back to the question: it’s a new year, so is it time for a new mission statement? Perhaps not at your organization, but for you. Perhaps it’s time to consider some “strategic planning” on where you want to end up in December 2022, and how you are going to get there. Just like in organizations, make sure your mission statement doesn’t expand beyond what you can do, and that it’s not super wordy.
Go forth and conquer! This is the year for you to discover your treasure and put words to it in your mission statement.
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© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.