Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mission Statements for Associations

Whether the words “mission statement” make you shudder or not, the matter comes down to a simple question. Why should you exist? You as a leader should be able to answer that question and it should provoke more than a grunt in your listener!

Here are some sample mission statements, some reasons to exist:

  • We provide support, education and advocacy for people with a rare medical condition.

  • We provide Internet solutions at a low-cost in an effort to help non-profit animal rescue and placement organizations end the plight of homeless animals.

  • We advance the professional interests of Marriage and Family Therapists.
  • A mission statement is something that you can point to at every board meeting and ask yourself, is this what we’re doing? Is this decision going to bring us closer to our mission or further away from it?

    As a board member, you should evaluate your activities using your mission as a guide. If you have staff, your staff should evaluate each of the organization’s many activities using the mission as a guide—and the board should hold them accountable using the mission as a guide. You get the picture!

    In a nonprofit environment, it can be difficult to focusing the organization’s efforts. This is because many different things are “worthwhile,” and the people factor is huge. We’re all volunteers, we’re all in this together, and we don’t want to spoil the feelings of collegiality and community that are at the core of the nonprofit sector’s staying power.

    Even so, you can still end up wasting time and being ineffective if you don’t pay close attention. A mission statement can help with this. Is this car wash that only has a 7% return on investment really that important or are we just doing it because an influential board member is really stubborn about it? Should we take a stand against a sponsor’s product that’s potentially harmful to our community? Or should we keep quiet because they keep the bills paid? Our Executive Director sure hasn’t convinced us that anything is actually happening to realize our goals. Should we let her go even though it will be very emotional?

    A strong organizational mission can help with these and many other issues. Now, a mission can be adjusted or adapted over time, but from day to day it remains an anchor for the organization’s activities.