I walked into the conference room and handed the ten people seated around the table a piece of paper and a pen.
“Please write down your organization’s mission statement.”
After one minute I gathered the papers and began reading each one aloud. They were all different. For the most part, the employees of this organization had a passable knowledge of the mission statement of the organization that employed them. Two were very off base. Some were one sentence long while others extended to five sentences.
After reading all ten, I looked around the room and said, “Now let’s get to work. If the people in this room aren’t clear about your mission, how do you think your donors feel?”
Kill The Mission Statement
Words matter. Nonprofits spend lots of time- and money- to craft a mission statement which details their work and how they help the community. Unfortunately, very often those mission statements are too long and meaningless.
As fundraising and copywriting expert Mike Duerksen says (at the 19:00 mark): “Mission statements by and large are vague, they’re run-on sentences, they’re not defined and clear.”
Think about that for a second: The mission statement should be super clear. And yet, many organizations publish long mission statements to look more professional in the eyes of donors.
Here’s a little secret: Your donors aren’t reading your 100-word mission statement. They care very much about your mission but they’re going to boil down your mission to what you actually do.
Your mission statement could be this long sentence about how you provide support and care, nurture and uplift children who are in need to be their best and achieve more. Your donors will know you as the nonprofit who provides after-school homework help.
Simple. To the point.
Nine years ago I challenged my Twitter followers: Summarize your organization’s mission statement into 140 characters. One tweet. (Remember when Twitter only allowed 140? Ah, the good old days of 2016.) This was part of a contest I was running at the time.
The feedback I received can be boiled down to two reactions:
“I didn’t know our full mission statement and had to look it up before I tweeted.”
“This was a really hard exercise. But it was great because it forced me to focus on what’s important.”
That “Twission” is what your mission statement should look like. Boil down your mission to something simple and powerful. Your donors are doing it. Why aren’t you?
Take the “Twission” challenge with your team. Do it with your Board. Because when you really get down to it, you’re helping people find a job. Feeding people who don’t have food. Giving shelter to homeless people. Freeing people who have been wrongly jailed.
When you lead with what you do and that statement tells it like it is, you’ll have an easier time connecting with donors, supporters, foundations, corporate sponsors and online followers. Why confuse them with added jargon?
People are pressed for time. They want you to get to the point. Tell them the problem and how they can help. Done.
Use Language Donors Understand
There are certain words or phrases we use in the office that we wouldn’t say to our donors. When it comes to mission statements, those should be aligned:
Inside the organization everyone should be crystal clear on what the mission is and how you go about impacting your community.
Donors should know exactly how their donation is changing their surroundings for the better.
Using language which is unclear, too long or vague creates both internal and external confusion.
Say what you mean, mean what you say.
So if you’re determined to keep your mission statement, consider shortening it and making it clear beyond a doubt what you do.
BONUS COVERAGE: Want to understand how important language is? Watch this video from the 4:10 mark. Learn how NOT to confuse your donors.
Year-end fundraising campaign time approaches. Is your website content prepared? Email marketing strategy ready to be implemented? Social media posts planned out? If your nonprofit wants to strengthen relationships with donors and raise more money, then your website, email and social media need to be in sync and ready to go when your campaign commences.
Not sure how to pull it all together? Contact me and let’s plan a successful year-end campaign together!