While researching association storytelling I’ve looked over at least a hundred association websites. Mission statements are generally front and center so I’ve reviewed many of these as well. Something always made me uncomfortable about the vast majority of mission statements but, I hadn’t given it much thought until last week when I had a great conversation with an association executive about storytelling and mission statements.
A very popular article by Entrepreneur magazine details how to write a mission statement. It says print your mission statement on the back of your business cards but I wonder how many associations would really be comfortable with this? Yes, their mission is compelling but is their mission statement compelling?
What is a mission statement for?
Many missions statements are self-serving, too general or uninspiring. They generally follow the same format, “we serve…”, “we advance the profession of…”, “we are the leading authority in…”, “we are dedicated to…”, “to be the leading organization…”. So what are mission statements really for?
Are mission statements something we develop because every association has to have one? Is mission statement development just a process we have to go through? Is a mission statement a guide, a goal or a rule? I guess it could be any of these things but then, ho-hum….
Use your mission statement to address their problem
Part of the problem with mission statements is they are all about what we do not why we do it.
There’s no grounding us in the problem to be solved. But, Acumen does this. Their statement is, “our mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders, and ideas.” and they go on to explain, “We started Acumen to change the way the world tackles poverty; to influence traditional charity by moving from a top-down approach toward one that’s bottom-up: approaching low-income people as part of the solution…”. They are saying, hey folks, maybe traditional charities do not work as well as we thought, what if there was another more effective way to solve these problems?
What if your mission statement could be a rallying cry?
charity: water also explains the problem to be solved and they go one step further.
They have a simple, powerful one sentence mission statement: charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Perhaps even better than this one sentence, is the way they used the mission statement to set up the backstory. They essentially say: come on a journey with us, can you imagine not being as lucky as you are to live in a first-world country? Think about what it means for many others around the world to even have access to a few cups of drinking water? They use their mission to paint a picture and to tell a story. charity: water’s mission isn’t just their mission now they have made the story about us.
Mission verses mission statement
Behind every brand you love is a mission you connect with. Your organization has a fantastic and much needed mission! You have the opportunity to articulate your inspiring mission in a way that deeply connects members, customers, suppliers, sponsors and your staff to your organization.
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