Every organization has a mission, a purpose, a reason for being. Often the mission is why the organization was first created – to meet a need identified years ago. Sometimes, the same problems that the organization initially tried to address continue to haunt generation after generation. In that case, the organization’s purpose doesn’t change – although how it does business has probably evolved. In the life of an organization things can change the landscape so much that the original mission must be updated, altered, or changed dramatically in order to address those new realities.
Make sure that your organization’s mission is current, alive, and well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to rewrite it every year. You want a clear, concise mission statement. A good mission statement should accurately explain why your organization exists and what it hopes to achieve in the future. It articulates the organization’s essential nature, its values, and its work.
The entire mission statement should be incorporated into a brief paragraph that is free of jargon. It should avoid the kind of shorthand language that you are in the habit of swapping with others who work in the art field, but is unfamiliar to anyone who is outside the organization.
Another important consideration is how recently your mission statement was reviewed by the board and staff. If it has been more than five years, it is probably a good time to review and, and if necessary, fine-tune or even rewrite your mission statement. All too often an organization’s mission statement, which has been handed down over the years, loses relevance and ceases to speak to staff, board members, or supporters.
An effective mission statement must resonate with the people working in and for the organization, as well as with the different audiences that the organization hopes to affect. It must express the organization’s purpose in a way that inspires commitment, innovation, and courage — not an easy task!
At the very least, your organization’s mission statement should answer three key questions:
- What are the opportunities or needs that we exist to address? (This is the purpose of the organization)
- What are we doing to address these needs? (The business that the organization does)
- What principles or beliefs guide our work? (The values of the organization and what you believe in)