Note from the Editor: this is the third installment in our "From the Experts" series from our Expert in Residence, Susan Burnash on how to write a marketing plan for your organization. Part 1 and Part 2 in case you need to catch up.
If you have ever attended one of my classes, you will know that when it comes to nonprofit marketing one of my biggest pet peeves is a poorly written mission statement. Why? Because I believe that your mission statement should be at the center of everything you do to bring awareness and support for your organization. If your mission statement doesn’t clearly say: (1) Why you exist; (2) What your organization is doing; and (3) What you expect to happen as a result of being in existence - you can’t possibly market your organization, or ask for support, successfully.
In my opinion, your mission statement is the foundation of all your marketing and community outreach efforts. It is the elevator speech that should be learned, memorized, and recited by all of your staff, board members, and volunteers. And, it is an ongoing reminder to everyone that your nonprofit comes in contact with, why your organization and the work you do is worth supporting.
Sadly, I can’t tell you in all of my years working with nonprofits, how many mission statements I have seen that even after reading or hearing them several times, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what that organization does. Perhaps this is because many mission statements are written by people that are so close to the organization that they haven’t even considered that those who will hear, or read it, are not as intimately involved in the organization as they are. Or, maybe they were written so long ago that the organization for all intended purposes no longer does what it was first created to do. It is not uncommon for nonprofits to change as the years pass and they develop and expand into a much different organization. I’ve seen nonprofits who no longer serve the same communities, offer the same services, or even exist in the same locations, and yet - their mission statement remains the same as the day they opened their doors.
I can tell you emphatically, if your mission statement doesn’t serve your organization in helping you to increase awareness, educate, and cultivate supporters – you have the wrong mission statement!
So here’s some advice: Before you start writing a Marketing Plan, building a website, creating brochures, or pulling your hair out because you can’t understand why no one knows, or understands, what your organization does – take an honest look at your nonprofit’s mission statement! If it answers the questions in the instructions below in a way that a stranger on the street can understand, you have hit the nail on the head. If it doesn’t, (no matter how much you love it) REWRITE IT TODAY! You don’t have to continue to use a mission statement that isn’t serving your organization. It really is okay to start again.
Here are a few great examples of mission statements that work:
The Atlanta Opera
The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to present productions of the highest standards while fostering education about the art form and encouraging its growth with educational programs designed to fill the needs of the community.
Children's Pediatric Research Center (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)
The Children's Pediatric Research Center provides inpatient and outpatient research support to investigators, their study team and research participants. Our core mission is to provide an environment for the advancement of clinical excellence through clinical research.
To strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world. Click on the above link to see how the Foundation Center takes their mission statement and expands on it.
Now, here’s the next thing you need to work on as you develop your nonprofit’s Marketing Plan. Remember if you have questions, please post a comment on this blog, on the Foundation Center Atlanta’s Facebook page, or check out the calendar to see when the next “How to Write a Marketing Plan” workshop will take place.
II. MISSION STATEMENT
Instructions: The mission statement of your organization should be clear, concise, and only a few sentences that answer the questions below, and provide a reason for someone to believe in your organization, service or product and support it.
Answer these questions:
- Why are we here or why do we exist?
- What are we doing?
- What is the expected outcome of our work?
Next: Lesson 4 - Defining Your Situational Analysis (come back next week to learn more!)