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    The Mission: No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise

    “No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


    For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been a very strong advocate of the “NO MONEY NO MISSION” school of thought.  I have even gone so far as to argue (much to the chagrin of many of you) that the money must come before the mission.


    Well, today I have a surprise for you.  I am going to devote this blog to, wait for it, THE MISSION, or, in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll, THE PORPOISE!  After all, you cannot raise any money without a solid and meaningful mission presented to the public in the form of the mission statement.  After all, it is the mission statement that is supposed to communicate your entire purpose.  And you want that to be done in one (OK, maybe two) clear sentences.


    According to Peter Drucker, the guru of all things management, “a mission statement should fit on a T Shirt”.  According to Jane Stein, a mission statement should give you goose bumps as it communicates the purpose of your nonprofit agency.  And add to that the need to speak to the dreams for the future for the organization, the need to describe what the organization does and how it does it and for whom, the need to be your marketing and public relations rallying cry and you have the perfect mission statement.


    I will bet that if you were to ask the board of your nonprofit organization at your very next board meeting to write the organization’s mission statement exactly, no more than 5% of the board would be able to do it without cheating.  I am also sure that no one, and I mean just about no one (even the CEO/Executive Director), can write down what should be the single most important set of words in the many, many, many words surrounding your organization.


    So, what are you going to do about this?


    Here are three suggestions:
    1. Hold a contest.  Engage not just the board but the full staff, clients, stakeholders in the community, in writing a new mission statement.  Find a great prize (donated, naturally). Get some good old fashioned public relations on the project (remembering that PR is free).  This project would serve several purposes as it could possibly be an opportunity for a local reporter to visit your organization and really see what is going on (all good stuff of course) and it will get the word out about your work in a new and different way.  Added benefit….more positive responses to your fundraising efforts!
    2. Have a board retreat. Begin the retreat by looking at exactly what it is that you do. I call this “filling in the mission wheel.  Do all of your retreat work.  Then end the retreat with the rewriting of the mission statement.
    3. Institute a “Mission Moment” at the very beginning or the very end of every board meeting. This is a three to five minute slot on the Agenda where either a client, a staff member or a volunteer (leadership volunteer or just one with a good story) shares that story with the whole Board.  The beauty of the “Mission Moment” is three-fold: it gives everyone a new elevator speech, it will, over time, be so special that Board members will arrive on time just to be sure not to miss the moment (or they will stay to the end of the meeting to not miss the moment…You get to use it to help the attendance issues of your organization by putting it first or last to fix those late-comers or early-leavers problem that you might be experiencing), and of course it will begin to point out to everyone just what the organization’s mission really is….thus helping that whole rewrite of the mission statement thing we have been taking about!


    And so, you will begin to find yourselves swimming in a more solid direction?  Because, Lewis Carroll”s wisely grinning Cheshire Cat said it best: “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go.”  Your mission statement will take you exactly where you were meant to be going.


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