The mission statement; It is easily one of the most important piece of any nonprofit’s outward messaging. Yet what I have discovered through my experience working with several nonprofits is that it is often the most confusing and convoluted piece of messaging as well. A large portion of mission statements I have come across seem unnecessarily bloated to the point where they often confuse the reader.
Avoid Elaborate Language
One of the most common problems with mission statements, and company messaging in general, is that the writer wants to convey their entire organizations work into a single and effective message that will inspire people. Although their intentions are noble, what often happens is the writer feels this strong need to include unnecessary information and use elaborate language to explain their work.
The result is something that sounds incredible on paper, but has little meaning in the minds of the reader. The original message that was meant to inspire people has become a long-winded literary mess.
Clear and Simple
The best solution is to keep it clear and simple. Imagine your mission statement is an elevator pitch – the idea that you should be able to present your company’s work in the time it takes to ride an elevator. The elevator pitch is a concept that has long been used by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and salespeople because it forces the presenter to go straight to the facts. In the startup world, a fantastic elevator pitch is crucial in raising investment and succeeding. The same is true in the nonprofit sector as well.
One of the best examples of a nonprofit’s mission statement done right is the one for charity:water (http://www.charitywater.org/):
Charity:water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
It is simple and straightforward. Their mission statement explains exactly what they do using clear and concrete language. No superfluous ideas and useless buzz words; just the fact that they are bringing clean water to people who need it. And not surprisingly, millions of people have donated and supported charity:water over the past six years.
Their supporters understand the charity’s work and more importantly, they can easily explain their mission to others. If your messaging is confusing to your donors, you are making it increasingly difficult for your supporters to pass along the great work that you do.
How Smartphones Make This more Important
This need for refining your messaging is further emphasized by the rapid growth of smartphone use. According to the Millennial Impact Report (http://themillennialimpact.com/) – a survey of over 6,500 people ages 20-25;
over 79% of millennials have connected with a nonprofit using their smartphones.
As people move towards using smartphones as their primary computers, the amount of on screen space is shrinking and the amount of information you can present is limited. You can no longer spend three paragraphs explaining your mission; it has to be done as succinctly as possible. Furthermore,
88% of millennials said that the About Us section is the first place they visit on a nonprofit’s website.
Donors want to know about your mission, they want to be able to understand the amazing work you do. Why overwhelm them with excessive information?
Rethinking Your Mission Statement
It’s time for many nonprofits to rethink their mission statements. The key is stepping back and taking a look at the entire picture, understanding the problems you are solving and the solutions you are employing. Presenting the donor with a simple and accurate view of your work will allow them to understand why they need to help and motivate them to take action.
As the online world moves towards an increasingly busy era, where social media and viral content compete for attention, it is messaging that inspires people that will attract the most attention and succeed in the end.