Monthly Archives: August 2015

Values, Mission, and Vision Redux

ValuesMissionIt’s time to revisit the foundational statements of any organization: Values, Mission, and Vision. These elements of your brand are the most basic—basic, in this case, does not mean simple. They are often labored over and the source of rift-rich conversations about things like whether to use the word “important,” “vital,” “essential,” or “how about we say nifty?” We have worked on a lot of these statements and we want to share some thoughts.

Values are about why you do what you do. These can be a list of descriptors or qualities that speak to what drives the organization, what its culture is, and what informs its decisions and aspirations. Values can speak to broad pieces like ecological or fun; narrower and more easily defined elements like Vermont-based or single-product; and vague concepts like individual or open. For values, think about what you stand for as an organization.

Mission is what you do. This is the reason for your organization’s existence. I love a very clean, one or two sentence mission. In the past, the mission  was used as an internal statement that charges the board with the responsibility of keeping the organization on task. Nowadays, we see the mission as a compelling statement that is the foundation of all marketing and messaging. To be effective, we want the mission to be internally true but externally facing with an eye on the organization’s hopes and realities.

Vision is how you know that you’ve succeeded. It’s the end state of what the world will look like if you are successful. This can be aspirational and/or inspirational but it should also be simple and clear. As it’s the end state, don’t use phrases like “to grow,” “to become,” or “to continue.” Think of words like “to be,” “to have,” or “to live in a world in which.” It’s not essential that the vision is realistic but it should be a guide star, a destination.

So, now you have these elements, is there a way to check if they work? Why yes, there is. If you were to visualize these three components, imagine looking at the  market position of your values. This is your homebase. Now look toward your vision from the perspective of your values. If you’ve done it right, you should be looking in a line that intersects your mission. These three concepts should line up: This organization cares about and puts value in these things (Values), which leads us to do this (Mission) to make those values tangible, and we’ll know that we did it well if the world ever looks like this (Vision).

Nonprofit Marketing and Authenticity

AuthenticityAuthenticity is one of those words that gets thrown around so much that it starts to lose not just its punch, but its meaning. Nonprofits are held to a higher standard of honesty and transparency when it comes to marketing—which we think is a good thing. At the same time, honesty and transparency don’t mean clinical and downtrodden.

A great example of the shift toward more authentic engagement has been the move toward storytelling in a lot of nonprofit marketing over the past 5 or so years. These stories bring the mission of the nonprofit to life with examples of how funds and services are making real-world impacts on individuals, families, and communities. With that said, there’s been something of a saturation of stories and stakeholders are asking important questions about how these stories scale throughout an organization’s outcomes. As an old uncle used to say, “Sun even shines on a dog’s ass every now and again.” This little nugget of wisdom means that one example of excellence doesn’t mean that there is a consistency to the excellence (nice, non?).

A good way to reframe this issue is to see authenticity as connection to mission, honesty of impact, and proof of outcomes. A vital path to this is Results-Based Accountability (RBA), which is a great tool to measure what you did (connection to mission), how well you did it (honesty of impact), and if anyone is better off (proof of outcomes). Combining this with compelling messaging that takes an “inwardly true, externally facing” view of your mission, and you are achieving and redefining organizational authenticity.

It’s tough to market nonprofits sometimes but the right place to start is being authentic about what you do, for whom and how they’re better off. Step two: now tell people about it…stay tuned for more on that soon.