Do you have a clear, focused mission statement for your program or organization? When was the last time you and your fellow staff reviewed it to ensure it still applies? Has your program or organization drifted away from it?
We changed one word. Just one word.
But it was an oh-so-important word.
Our original mission statement was:
- To improve the well-being of children by increasing the number of children growing up with involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives.
- To improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives.
We changed that word to reflect our desire to have impact from a population-based perspective. We realized that just because we might see a reduction in number didn’t necessarily mean we’d see a reduction in the proportion of children affected by father absence.
It took another 14 years for us to change our mission statement to what it is today. And, oh, did we change it. It is:
- National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) transforms organizations and communities by equipping them to intentionally and proactively engage fathers in their children’s lives.
We changed it because we had evolved to focus exclusively on building capacity in organizations and communities. We had moved away from reaching dads directly (e.g. through our public service announcement campaign).
For too long we had tried to do too many things—we were scattered, unfocused. Although we had always built capacity in organizations and communities, we realized that we could have more impact by focusing all of our efforts on it.
We also realized that we needed a new mission statement that reflected this focus and that would guide our staff in making day-to-day decisions, something our previous mission statements didn’t do. Those previous statements made it difficult for us to say “no.”
That’s the first of seven things an impactful mission statement does. You can apply these seven things to any program or organization, not just one focused on serving dads. As identified in the book Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, they are:
- Focuses the program or organization. Ensure that your mission isn’t too broad.
- Solves an unmet need. Your program or organization should solve an unmet need in the geographic area(s) in which it operates.
- Leverages distinctive skills. Ensure that staff have the skills necessary to help your program or organization accomplish your mission. If they don’t, help them develop those skills or hire new staff with them.
- Guides trade-offs. It helps staff decide what to do and what not to do. Your program’s or organization’s impact is affected as much by what staff choose not to do as what they choose to do. Staff must learn to say “no” to initiatives and activities that won’t help your program or organization accomplish its mission.
- Inspires staff and key stakeholders. It motivates staff and stakeholders (e.g. board members, clients, and funders). It respects the diverse interests of stakeholders.
- Is timeless. It endures through the changes that are inevitable in a program or organization. It should change only in exceptional situations.
- Is sticky. It is compelling, memorable. The best statements are short yet long enough to clearly communicate the strategy of the program or organization.
I encourage you to examine your program’s or organization’s mission statement through this lens and change it, if necessary.
When was the last time your staff reviewed your mission statement?
Can staff recite your mission statement from memory?
How and how often do you communicate your mission statement to staff and stakeholders?