Monday, January 22, 2007

Beyond mission statements

If a mission statement is the headline, what's the story?

For several years I have taught individuals and leaders how how to write brief powerful personal and organizational mission statements. I've even created a two-page "A guide to developing your organization’s mission statement" that my daughter, her director, and colleagues used to create a mission statement for Urban Jacksonville (Jacksonville, FL) whose mission is to: Honor elders, promote independence, and encourage families through service and support.

A well written mission statement is like a headline. It packs alots of information and punch into a few words. But a newspaper or magazine would sell few copies if it consisted of only headlines.

To describe the treasure that your organization has to offer clients, staff, board, donors, and funders, you need more that a mission statement--you need stories.

Secular and religious nonprofit leaders can learn from Diana Butler Bass who for three years studied 50 vital mainline Protestant churches to see what made them vital. Her research led her to write two books and one of her many observations in a recent Alban Weekly caught my attention:

Throughout my research on vital mainline churches, both clergy and congregational leaders were storytellers. They knew their own faith stories, they knew the stories of their congregations, they knew their tradition's stories, and they knew the larger Christian and biblical stories. They exhibited ease and comfort in sharing these stories and invited others into a variety of stories in natural and authentic ways. In the process, they opened paths for other people to learn and tell stories of faith. And they ably moved between personal, congregational, and biblical stories to create worlds of spiritual and theological meaning. They intuited the power of story to rearrange people's lives...

To move beyond your organization's mission statement you need to tell the stories of your nonprofit--stories of how your organization was founded, stories of lives transformed by your organization and stories of what your staff have done to transform lives.

If your mission statement is the headline for your nonprofit, then the stories you and your colleagues tell are the treasure.

To get your free copy of "A guide to developing your organization’s mission statement" e-mail me at