Leaders have to know what the mission is. If we don’t know what the mission is, we need to stop what we’re doing and define it.
I was with a non-profit in Texas a few weeks ago. Around the table sat the executive director, a couple of board members, volunteers, and staff members. I asked what their mission is. I’m sad to tell you, there wasn’t a unified answer among the team. There were a lot of different answers, but not one unified answer. If there isn’t a unified answer, our team—who is following us, because we’re the leaders—doesn’t know what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s up to us to define the mission.
What is our mission? Because everything we do is connected to that mission. Our fundraising is connected to the mission. Our donor development is connected to the mission. How we market and how we brand our organization is connected to the mission. If we haven’t defined the mission, then we’re off-track already. Largely, that falls to those of us who are directors and leaders within our organizations, or the executive director if we lead a different kind of non-profit. We lead the organization in partnership with our board, and our by-laws play into that, our corporate charter, etc. At the end of the day, those corporate documents are simply that—they’re corporate documents. The people in our building don’t see those documents every day. They see us every day, so how we live out the mission is going to communicate volumes.
How then do we communicate that mission? We have to shout it from the mountaintop. Simply put, we have to reiterate it over and over and over again. The mission could be so innate, so deeply ingrained within us and our team that we forget others may not know it as well. The community won’t catch on. Donors won’t catch on. To solve that issue is simple. Put it everywhere: the wall in our office, in all our correspondence that goes out to donors and partners, in our email signature line. We’ve got to be able to define your mission, and it has to be clear. Our mission is our reason for existence. It’s why we’re here. It’s why our organization exists.
Our mission probably isn’t going to change much. We may tweak it a little bit year by year as we grow. We may realize a word doesn’t fit who we are as much, like an adjective. But the basic root, the basic foundation of your mission, probably isn’t going to change. So, if we’ve been around five, ten, twenty years and our team, community, and staff cannot articulate our mission, that’s the first place I’d encourage us as leaders to spend some time. Define the mission. Live it. Breathe it. Memorize it.
Jack Eason is the President of The Heart Share Group, an organization dedicated to helping organizations reach their full potential through leadership development, brand development, and partnership development. Heart Share serves Christian radio through donor development strategies, fundraising initiatives (including on-air campaigns and major donor support), and creative partnerships. Contact Jack at [email protected]…