Working with volunteers can be one of the most beneficial and important elements to an organization’s success, but it also can greatly impede the work of an organization if not done correctly. In this post I will show you how to create in inspiring mission for your organization that will help to recruit and keep people engaged and passionate about the work your organization does.
Flickr Photo Credit: tonyhall
How do I know how to create an inspiring mission? I know how to do this because I have practiced it for five years while leading a nonprofit program called, A Day of Hope. For five years I worked with volunteers, donors, and the community of Turlock to feed over 1,000 families for Thanksgiving. This was a massive amount of work and it required a lot of help from a large number of volunteers.
To actively work with volunteers and recruit them for your work, you have to have an inspiring mission. You have to have an inspiring mission for your organization as a whole, or at least for your individual department or program. My argument is that you can actually have both.
However, this is not new information, right? We all know as leaders that we must have an inspiring mission for our organization. But, let me ask you this. Can you recite the mission for your organization or program from memory? Without reading it somewhere, I encourage you to try to remember it.
In the month of March I gave a talk to three separate groups of leaders in the community and I asked them this question, “Who here can recite the mission statement of their organization ” After asking this question people looked at each other not knowing what to say until they saw the mission of their organization on the wall, which is when they began to read it.
If you are someone who cannot recite the mission of your organization or program from memory, I’d like to share with you some tips on how to create an inspiring mission for your program.
3 Key Elements of an Inspiring Mission
- Short: one sentence or less
- Exciting: showing how your program changes lives
- Memorable: it’s okay for a mission to rhyme, use similar words, or be an alliteration if that helps it be more memorable
Here are two examples of inspiring mission statements:
- A Day of Hope: to provide hope and encouragement to families in need at Thanksgiving. It has been three years since I have officially worked with A Day of Hope, but I can still recite this mission statement from memory. I don’t need to read it on the back of a business card or look for it on the wall, it is a mission that is burnt into my memory. This mission also follows our three key elements for creating an inspiring mission because it is short (one sentence or less), it is exciting (who doesn’t want to help families in need for Thanksgiving?), and is is memorable (the mission statement has the same word “hope” inside of it which relates to the name of our program).
- North Point Community Church: to create churches unchured people love to attend. This is a mission or maybe even a “vision” statement but it also is a great example of what a mission statement should look like. It is short (again, it’s not a complete sentence), it is exciting (anyone who cares for lost people wants unchured people to come to church), and it is memorable (by saying they want to create a “church” that “unchured” people love to attend).
On the topic of mission and vision, Mark Sanborn, author of numerous books on leadership explains: “Leaders agonize when developing vision, mission, and strategy.” He goes on to say that for a vision or message to matter to listeners that vision must be:
- Constant: The best messaging loses effectiveness when it changes. The more often messaging changes, the less believable future messaging becomes.
- Clear: Ambiguity is the enemy of success. When people aren’t clear on what you mean, they fill in the blanks, and usually incorrectly.
- Catchy: Your audience is bombarded with messages in every conceivable medium. Being catchy is about breaking through the clutter and being memorable.
- Compelling: The ultimate guard against dilution [of vision] is to make your important messages compelling. People can be clear and able to act on the information but they won’t without reasons that make sense to them. That is the essence of creating a compelling message: getting people to care enough to do something. Compelling ideas are powerful; they have the ability to induce action. 1
Having an inspiring mission is extremely important for your organization. In fact, there are two reasons you must have an inspiring mission which I will share in my next post. But for now, please answer the question below in the form of a comment, a tweet, or a blog post.
Question: What other tips are there for creating an inspiring mission?
- Mark Sanborn, “The Dilution Dilemma: Making Your Messages Matter”, Special Briefing e-newsletter, January 25, 2010. ↩