Let’s face it, the Non-Profit Sector enjoys a unique role in our communities. And, there is no time like the present to offer the hope that a non-profit’s mission can bring to the people you serve. By definition, your organization has a unique mission to share – were it not so, the IRS would not have granted your charitable status!
In a time where our communities are reeling from the effects of the economy, harsh rains, snow, wind, fire, floods, and the like, we would recommend you take a moment to rekindle your mission. What does your mission say? What does your organization do? Are there some community needs within your mission that can provide hope in your community? Is it time to reintroduce your organization to your community?
You do remember that you have a mission statement, right? While it was likely conceived a good while ago, and while it is probably a little broad or maybe too vague or the words don’t say exactly what they should, we are living in a time when your organization is needed more than ever to bring new hope and ideas to your community. That’s why you exist!
To ‘rekindle’ your mission, as we say, start with finding it and reading it. Actually, spend some quality time studying it. Does it give you hope? Does it empower you to instill hope and take action on issues of importance in your community? If the words are not clear, then ponder how you could tweak your mission statement and make them clearer – actually, really clear – so that your constituents readily understand why you exist and what your role can and should be.
You have a truly wonderful opportunity in the midst of challenging times.
Although the focus of this article is serving your community, through hope, within the unique mission you provide, we suggest that you not miss the opportunity to reinvigorate staff, volunteers, and board members as you rekindle your mission. We know that without dedicated workers and volunteers in your non-profit, you will fall short of your mission, so the act of providing hope and a renewed level of excitement within your organization is an important key ingredient to achieving your mission in the community.
So, exactly how would you go about organizing a ‘rekindling activity’ inside your organization?
We will only suggest an example that you can control entirely, that will cost nothing, and is guaranteed to work – if for no other reason than it has probably not been done before! After you, presumably as the board chair or the executive director, have studied your current mission statement and developed some initial thoughts about how to rekindle it, call a meeting of your key internal advisors – that may be key staff, all staff, a few board members, devoted volunteers, whatever is appropriate for your unique organization – and conduct the meeting in a way that is intentionally different from the norm in your non-profit. For example, if you have staff meetings on Wednesdays at 10 a.m., call your special meeting at some other time! If your board meetings are always at lunch, then call a special meeting for breakfast! You are trying rekindle excitement, dedication, and commitment, so make sure you do something that is very obviously different from the norm.
Prior to your meeting, send out your mission statement, with your thoughts and notes on what jumps out at you that can provide hope to your community at this precise moment. We are not particularly suggesting that this exercise results in a revision of your mission (although it might) but, rather, we are suggesting that all missions provide room for creativity and excitement when intentionally interpreted in that manner. In your cover note, tell the participants that you are excited about some opportunities you have been thinking about and that you want to get their input. Remind them of the importance of your organization and your mission of community service. In short, prepare them for an exciting meeting that will have one or two specific outcomes – opportunities for hope – that will get done.
What are those outcomes? Let them flow from the meeting participants! To be realistic, monkeying around with a sacred mission statement can be a tricky thing, so you really want to rise above all of that. Quite simply, you are looking for a much-needed, easy-to-implement idea, which fulfills your mission in the community in your own unique way. You know your organization can make a difference and you are about to provide the leadership to make it happen. So, while you may arrive to the meeting with a couple of ideas, or you may have some participants that have some other ideas, let the group flow toward consensus. If you facilitate properly, this will happen. The main ingredient in this meeting is excitement (an attitude) that leads to hope (by a specific doable thing).
Who knows? You might get lucky and end up with several great ideas. But, the most important thing is that you come away from this special meeting with one solid idea.
Our organization teaches through case studies, or examples, so we will provide an example. Let’s say your non-profit is a museum. Any museum. You have a mission to share your collection and your unique way of educating the public within your community. You already know that. Is there a constituency within your community that is underserved? How about an event that brings in a group from a local retirement home? Imagine the excitement and hope that such a visit could instill! What does it cost? Probably nothing. Most retirement homes have transportation for groups of residents. If not, call a bus company and ask for a one-time donation of services. It is pretty amazing how donors are willing to make a one-time gift of their services for an unusual idea that will bring hope to the community. There’s a certain good will component for the donor. Ah, and for your organization. After all, that’s why you exist.
Your local media might even find your project of hope to be of interest! Your community needs your non-profit now more than ever. Good luck. Make it happen. And, please let us know how it goes.