So you want to start a philanthropic effort for your business? You want to create positive change in the world?
NOT chasing the bottom line for 5 minutes feels awesome, but then what? Starting something is often both exciting and daunting, without mentioning that (as the Buddhist saying goes) you still need to “chop wood and carry water” for your profit-generating side of the business because, well, creditors have no sense of humor.
Before you do anything, you need a Mission statement; a statement that is different from your business platform – hopefully related, but different. A Mission Statement sits at the heart of why you want to do this, and more importantly, keeps you from going astray with your philanthropy –something which is incredibly easy to do in this field because everything – literally everything – is meaningful and worthy of someone’s support. That being said, that “someone” does not necessarily have to be you, and a Mission Statement helps you stay the course, and at a more practical level, helps you say “no” (which is a critical activity when you give money away routinely; but more on that later.) I want you to think of this more as the marching orders of SEAL Team 6, and less as the Magna Carta, OK?
One week ago at the Youngry launch I run into a gentleman very passionate about his startup, and also very passionate about removing unexploded ordinance (i.e. mines) from Laos; all dreadful relics of the Vietnam war… His hope was to incentivize locals to remove the mines and use the iron for the hardware on his product. Win-win. I shared with him that I work with startup entrepreneurs and help them design their corporate responsibility/philanthropy effort. As we were talking, I could see that his thinking was evolving in front of my eyes, stimulated by what’s possible and infused with conviction. And I realized that he needed first two things: he needed to articulate his values and philosophy (more on that in another post), and he needed a Mission.
If you, like him, are chomping at the bit to do good in a sustained manner, here is how you go about creating your Mission Statement. And if you feel up to it, may I suggest you dig into your Vision Statement and Focus Areas too? Furthermore, if you can, summarize your past charity work (formal or informal, if any) with an Impact Statement and share that with the world as well. Because social proof is mission-critical. If people see YOU doing good, they start doing good as well.
All right, so here are the 5 steps to get you there:
- Ask yourself a few questions.
- What is the need for a new vision? What can it do for our company at the practical level?
- Unpack some hidden/unconscious challenges:
o Will I be able to live with the new mission/vision? Will I be able to support the new vision?
o What will the new vision expect of me? How will my world change as a result?
o Is this being created perfunctorily? Will there be any follow-through?
- Share with your team that whatever you create will be used as a way to open up a dialogue rather than be handed down from on high.
- Have a copy of your business plan and/or business goals and any old mission/vision statement so you can refer to it throughout the process
- Track the process and the evolution of the drafting, and periodically pause: “OK, so here is what we have: ……. How does that sound?” Then read it out loud because the brain processes visual and auditory information in different ways and what might look good written, might sound deeply clunky when spoken.
- Reflect on the fundamentals below as you work on your statements
The difference between a Vision statement and a Mission statement
Vision statement: describes your dreams, hopes and ambitions and expresses your goal(s) and reasons for undertaking the work. This should be BIG, slightly out of reach, but specific.
Mission statement: communicates a purpose. Provides an overview of your plans to realize that vision by identifying the “what”, ”why” and the “how” values, and goals for all actions. Mission is less aspirational than mission, and broader then the focus.
Focus areas: what will you be working on in the near future? Highlight geography, specific populations, a particular approach, etc.
Impact statement: Briefly summarizes, in lay terms, the difference your efforts have made in the world. This states accomplishments and creates strong support for the future charitable work. Not all entities have an impact statement by the way.
Crafting a Mission statement
The 5 “W”s:
Why do you want to do your philanthropic work? What do you want to do? For whom? Where? How?
An effective mission statement:
– Is clear, concise and short.
– Explains who you are and what you do from a philanthropic perspective
– Should inspire the public’s interest and support
– Articulates the larger needs addressed (Example: “to inoculate communities against the threat of violence”.)
– Specifies the activities undertaken in order to address the expressed needs. (Example: “to design and implement education programs that would create awareness and change public behavior.“)
- Run your drafts by your team (or other people you trust)
Give people time to discuss their impressions. You can ask the following questions to generate some dialogue and refine your final statements:
- What do you like? What do you dislike?
- Are the statements easy to understand?
- Are the statements too vague, or are they specific enough?
- Are they too long? Too short?
- Do the statements express an idea or a hope for the future?
- Are they too unambitious? Too “pie in the sky”?
- Do they contain adjectives or goals that are appropriate for a mission statement?
- Do they clarify a direction for our organization?
- Decide on a stopping point.
Done is better than perfect. Plus, a Mission/Vision/Impact statement is always subject to tweaks and revisions. Focus Areas shift periodically as work evolves, grows and gets refined.
- Disseminate and act upon
The most exquisitely crafted statement in the world is worth nothing if you don’t share it with others. Plus, sharing with others makes you and your organization accountable.
Release it into the world, and then start walking your (new) talk.
See you out there, dogooder!