Lynn Harden on Movie MondaysCan you recite your nonprofit’s mission statement? Does it inspire and energize? Or is is more like a laundry list of tasks?

If it sounds like tasks, it’s hurting your fundraising.

Your nonprofit’s mission is vital. It’s needed. It should inspire passion. When it does, it can transform your community.

Giving your mission statement a makeover

In a recent Movie Monday, Lynn Harden, executive director of the Regence Foundation, describes her experience with a small nonprofit women’s center helping survivors of domestic violence. The center was struggling with funding, struggling to be heard in their community and, struggling with not enough talent on their board.

They thought they needed more funding. Lynn knew they actually needed vision and a mission statement that the community could get behind. Their mission statement was long and basically a list of what they did:

“The Battered Women’s Shelter provides shelter, education, and job opportunities for victims of domestic violence.”

She knew domestic violence was an important issue. And she knew that communities felt this was an important issue. But there was nothing that touched the heart in their mission statement. Nothing that would drive people to action. As Lynn describes it there was nothing to get villagers to “taking out the pitchfork and firing up torches to conquer the monster” (like scenes in old Frankenstein movies).

She realized they needed to change their own perception of their work. Together they created a much simpler statement, one much easier to remember.

“Our mission is to protect a woman’s right to feel safe in her own home.”

They began to write about themselves differently. They began to view their work as a board and as a staff differently.

Amazing things happen when your community understands your mission

The mission statement changed how the community views the organization and about domestic violence. The police department change their procedures about restraining orders. Judges changed sentencing of offenders to better protect survivors. Faith communities came to the table and started providing domestic violence awareness within their communities. The YMCA started an anger management class for men.

The mission statement “resonated so heavily with so many different kinds of people” that the community realized domestic violence actually cut across all socio-economic groups in their community. Better still, the mission statement helped people raise their hands to either say “I need help” or “I can help.”

All of a sudden, their board was engaged more effectively because better skill sets were now at the table.

“The power of a mission statement sits in front of and carries an organization forward. It brings out in community a sense in the community of ‘we cannot say no to this.'” – Lynn Harden

Their inspiring mission statement solved their funding problems, their board problems, and made a bigger impact in their community than they’d come to expect.

Is it time to revisit your mission statement?

Would you like to have that sort of impact? One that inspires a community to rally around it?

One great place to start is by taking out your mission statement and, as a group, asking, “Ok, but why? Why do we do that?”

If you need more inspiration, look over the fundraising appeals that brought in the most gifts. What messages were in them? What were donors getting behind?

We’re not talking about changing your mission. Not at all! We are talking about restating how you describe that mission to others. The results can be amazing.

This could be a great discussion topic if you’re responsible for a board or staff retreat!

You can watch Lynn describe the results herself at:

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