Does your organization
have a Mission Statement? You probably do. How about a Vision Statement? A
If you do not have these
three statements, or if you have them but are not using them to guide your
organization's work, you are missing out on some of the simplest and most
effective governance tools you could find. These statements of your Vision,
your Mission and your Values can define and guide your organization's ability
to create the future of your community!
Mission We can't really begin the discussion
of the Vision Statement and the Mission Statement without first addressing the
semantic difference between the two. Get 10 consultants in a room, and you may
get 10 different answers to just what that difference is!
To distinguish between
Vision and Mission in our own work, we have defaulted back to the plain English
usage of those words. And the simplest way we have found to show that
difference in usage is to add the letters "ary" to the end of each word.
We certainly know what
those two words mean. A visionary is someone who sees what is possible, who
sees the potential. A missionary is someone who carries out that work.
Our favorite example of
this everyday usage is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a visionary. He saw
the potential, the possibilities for making life better. His
missionaries carry his work and his words to the world, putting his
vision into practice.
Your organization's vision
is all about what is possible, all about that potential. The mission is what it
takes to make that vision come true.
Statement If your Vision Statement is a
statement of what is possible, the picture of the future you want to create,
the critical question for a Community Benefit organization is then, "Vision for
whom? For what?" From the perspective of your organization's ability to
accomplish as much community impact as possible, now and into the future, the
only answer can be that your organization's vision is for the future you
want to create for the community you wish to impact.
An effective Vision
Statement will therefore tell the world what change you wish to create for the
future of your community. Our vision is a community where _______________. Our
vision is a community that _______________.
Given that this sector is
all about changing our communities and our world, I am amazed that the
corporate version of a Vision Statement is still taught in this sector. But
conference presenter after conference presenter continue to teach that "Your
organization's Vision Statement is the picture of the future you want for the
In a for-profit company,
that definition of a Vision Statement makes sense. Self-perpetuation is what
such a company is meant to do - to keep creating profits, long into the future,
for those who own that company.
But when the purpose of an
organization is Community Benefit, its vision must be for the community, not
When an organization's
Vision Statement focuses on the organization itself, we end up seeing Vision
Statements like this one, which falls into the "We couldn't make this up"
A crisis nursery for
abused and neglected children showed us the Vision Statement they had posted in
their lobby. It read, "Our vision is to be the most effective crisis nursery in
For those of you who have
heard me speak about this from a podium, you know this is the point where my
voice raises three octaves and I cry, "NO!" The ultimate vision, from the
community's perspective, is not that the community has an incredible crisis
nursery, but that they not need a crisis nursery! The vision for what is
possible is a community where children and their families are safe!
We can only create
significant improvement in our communities if our vision is about exactly that
- the difference we want to make, the dream of our communities' highest
Couldn't Make This Up
A human service
organization proudly showed us that their Vision Statement took up an entire
page. That page described, in minute detail, the future of that organization. A
full paragraph described what the facility would look like. Another full
paragraph described what the programs would be like, and yet another paragraph
detailed (I swear I am not making this up) how the organization would be
financially sound. In this entire single-spaced, jam-packed page, the word
"client" appeared once, and the word "community" appeared not at all.
Your Vision Statement will
therefore answer the big question - WHY are you doing what you are doing? You
are doing it so you can create a community that is better than the way things
are now. You are doing it so that individuals' lives will be better, so that
everyone's lives will be better. Your Vision Statement will create that
context. It will tell where you are heading.
So, for your
organization's Vision Statement, fill in this blank:
vision is a community where ________________________________.
vision is a community that __________________________________.
At Creating the Future, our
vision is a vibrant, healthy, compassionate world.
Statement Like the Missionary, your Mission
Statement will turn your vision into practice. The Mission Statement is the one
that will actually do the work.
Again, it is easy to see
what the Mission Statement needs to do if we go back to plain English usage.
Consider the phrase "mission accomplished" - the work is done. Consider the
phrase "mission impossible" - the job cannot be done. The mission is the doing
part - it is what you will do to bring that vision to reality.
And while it is powerful
to talk about the work you do, it is more powerful to talk about it in the
context of why you are doing that work - your vision for making your community
an amazing place to live.
As you craft your mission
statement, then, consider starting with your Vision Statement as the lead-in to
your Mission Statement:
vision is a community where ________________. To bring that vision into
reality, we do ______________________.
To expand on the practical
part of your Mission Statement, you might add where you do your work, and for
whom, to further describe what you do.
vision is a community where ________________. To bring that vision into
reality, we do ______________________________ for ________________ in the
___________ region / area / township / etc.
Mission Statements should
not be flowery and overblown. If it is taking a committee 6 months to rewrite
your Mission Statement, the resulting Mission Statement will likely be bad.
Keep it simple simple simple!
Couldn't Make This Up
organization formed a committee to craft their Mission Statement. The committee
spent months on the task - a dangerous sign of what's to come. Here is what
they presented as their final product:
nourish the seeds of knowledge already planted within the hearts of the youth,
which will grow into a beautiful and thriving tree, shading all cultures of our
community, and eventually bear the fruits of a unified people.
These days, when
I speak about this issue, I offer the audience a prize for the first person to
guess what the organization does.
answer: A multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, inner-city youth center.
The best answer I
ever heard: A sperm bank. I laughed so hard I gave the guy the prize
I am not a fan of the
thinking that says "Your Mission Statement should fit on a Tshirt." That is a
slogan, an ad campaign. Perhaps if you are Coca-Cola that might make sense. For
the work we do in this sector, we don't need to be snazzy. Just tell folks what
you do, and why you are doing it.
One of our
favorite mission statements is that of the Diaper Bank we founded.
Diaper Bank's long term vision is a community where everyone's basic needs are
met. To accomplish this in the short term we provide diapers to needy
populations. To effect long term community improvement, we work to increase
awareness of the issues facing vulnerable populations.
mission statement of the Community-Driven Institute is:
vision is for a healthy, compassionate, vibrant world. Our mission is therefore
to ensure the Community Benefit Sector has practical tools for accomplishing
those visionary ends. We do this work by convening, engaging, mobilizing and
supporting the sector, to ensure we all have the means to make our world an
Statement Whether written to be effective or
ineffective, Mission Statements and Vision Statements are relatively common in
But that is where most
organizations stop. Vision and Mission. Statements of where we are headed, and
what we will do to get there.
It is the rare
organization that takes the time to then define HOW they will do that work -
the talk they want to walk.
The only way we can create
an amazing future for our communities is if we do our work in a way that
reflects universally shared values. This ensures we do not squander our time
and resources rationalizing our actions, and it helps ensure we are not
potentially squandering our community's goodwill.
Further, if your goal is
to create the future of your community - the lofty goals of your vision
statement - then you will want to ensure your work reflects the values you want
to see in your community.
A Values Statement
provides the tools for the organization to accomplish that. First, the Values
Statement will look outside the organization, to the visionary outcomes you
want to create for your community.
values will need to be present in the community for your vision to come to
values would the community need to emphasize? What values would have to be the
From there, your Values
Statement will look inside, to see how your own work will model those values,
to teach those values by example.
will your work reflect those values?
will you ensure you are modeling those values to the community?
you have a tough decision to make, will you always err on the side of those
in the blank: We always want the community to be able to say __________ about
the way we do our work.
Most boards we encounter
have never talked about these issues.
The rare few who do indeed
have a code of values - a Values Statement - may point to the sign on the wall
in the lobby, to prove they have such a thing. But in practice, they have no
mechanisms for ensuring their stated values are used in their work. They have
no way of translating the sign on the wall into the decisions they make and the
actions they take every day.
That is the power of what
a Values Statement can do. It will not only tell the world outside and inside
the organization what talk you want to walk, but it can give you the tools for
measuring whether or not you are indeed walking that talk!
When we begin talking with
organizations about creating a Values Statement, we get mixed reactions. One of
the most common reactions is, "We don't need this. We already know what our
When we ask a few key
questions, though, it becomes clear that while everyone on the board believes
they have a shared core of values, in fact, each board member simply believes,
"Everyone here shares my values!"
One of the other common
reactions we get when the issue of "values" is raised is that a discussion of
values is little more than "Touchy Feely mumbo jumbo," with no real practical
application to the work the organization does.
And again, the truth is
directly opposite of that. Boards face values-based dilemmas at the board table
all the time - they just don't recognize them as such. Any time the board is
faced with the question of "What is important here?" that is a values-based
Couldn't Make This Up
A substance abuse
recovery organization had an annual fundraiser, a Kentucky Derby event that was
very popular. Folks would dress up as if they were going to the race, and they
would then watch the race together on big screen televisions.
The flyer for
this event came to our office, and we couldn't believe what we saw. As is
common with event marketing, the flyer had a list of all the great things
intended to entice someone to join the fun. A raffle, a silent auction.
Watching the race among friends.
But at the top of
that list of fun things - number 1 on the list - was "Beer, Wine and Mint
At a fundraiser
for a substance abuse recovery organization, the event's NUMBER 1 fun item was
all about alcohol!
Clearly, this is
an organization that either has no Values Statement, or doesn't use the one
they have when decisions are being made.
Couldn't Make This Up Either!
Lest you think
values-free decisions only happen in small local organizations, the
International Red Cross has become the media's poster child of such
And while the
public is relatively aware of the various debacles that occurred after 9/11 and
Katrina, the most blatant example of what happens when there is no core of
values guiding decisions is the situation for which the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration has had to fine the American Red Cross $4 million dollars. Yes,
you read that right - a $4million dollar fine.
According to the
FDA, the Red Cross failed to ensure the safety of the nation's blood supply. In
a 2001 article about the Red Cross, New York Times reporter Deborah Sontag
noted, "Food and Drug Administration inspectors found that some Red Cross blood
centers would keep testing blood until the tests delivered the desired results;
for instance, blood that tested borderline-positive for a given virus would be
retested five or six times until the numbers came out negative."
Because blood =
money for the Red Cross, if it looked like one more run-through the machine
might make that blood usable, they would run it through till it passed.
especially when it comes to money, do not just happen in small organizations.
They happen when we have no bigger picture of why we are doing what we are
doing, and no guiding principles, based on universally shared values, that
guide our work.
Are there groups from whom it is not ok to accept
What kind of employee benefits package should we
When a board member betrays a confidential matter,
what should we do?
When we've outgrown our rental space, should we buy
a building and potentially go into debt, or just lease more space?
These questions (and a
thousand more lined up behind them) all pivot on values issues. Any discussion
that focuses on the question, "What's more important - this, or that?" is a
discussion of values. And without prior discussion of what values will guide
decisions, each of these discussions has no context for the decision.
And while all these issues
are important reasons for addressing core values in the form of a formal
statement, the most critical reason is this:
Absent a values-based context for decision-making,
groups are more likely to default to fear-based decision-making when things get
tough. And those fear-based decisions are more likely to cross the very lines
we would have agreed we would not cross, had we talked about those values in
the first place. The only defense against making fear-based decisions you may
live to regret is to have discussed core values ahead of time.
Your Values Statement will
start with your Vision and Mission, and will then talk about how you will
ensure that work is done to model the behaviors you want to see in the
the Diaper Bank's Values Statement - its working credo - provides a touchstone
for decision-making at that organization. To see that document,
see the Values Statement for Creating the Future,
For Values Exercises to use with
your own board Click Here
Statements in Practice As has been stated
throughout this article, the Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Values
Statements are not simply for hanging in your lobby or putting on your
letterhead. These are practical tools that will help your board govern towards
creating more impact in your community.
Here are just a few ways
these statements can be used to further your work.
Begin Board Meetings
with All 3 Statements Board meetings have a tendency to quickly dive
into the million small items that need to be addressed. By starting the meeting
with just a few moments to review and talk about these 3 Statements, you are
setting the tone and the context for those practical discussions.
What are we really here
for? What is the context of the decisions we will make today? What future are
we trying to create, and for whom? And when we do make decisions - which is
what we are here to do - what will we base those decisions on?
By starting each meeting
with a re-commitment to those 3 Statements, you will be more likely to keep
them in your mind as your board does its work.
Have the 3 Statements
Available at the Board Table Because it is not always easy to remember
to fall back on these 3 Statements when we are faced with tough decisions, have
copies of the 3 Statements available on the board table at every meeting, to
serve as physical reminders.
We cannot count the times,
during tough decisions, that we have seen a board member, deep in thought,
reach across the table for a copy of their Values Statement, to put that
decision into perspective.
Ask the Question A great habit to cultivate is to have the question asked, for each and
every decision of the board, "How will this fit into our Vision for the future
of the Community?"
And then, as your board
directs a committee or the staff to do particular tasks, ask the question, "Are
there specific parts of our Values Statement we want the staff to pay attention
to, as they do that work?"
The only way to remain
conscious of these guideposts is to do just that - be conscious. Keep those 3
Statements consciously in the forefront of your decision-making. And the
easiest way to do that is to create habits, such as these, that remind the
board, all the time - this is what we are about. When we have tough decisions
to make, this is what we have said is important.
Use the 3 Statements as
the Context for Your Organization's Planning The most influential
decisions your organization will make happen during your annual planning
sessions. (Don't forget that "budgeting" is planning as well. Your budget is
the financial plan for the coming year - the place where your plans will either
become reality, or die for lack of inclusion in the budget.)
When it is time to
determine goals for the coming year, how will those goals fit in with the
future you want to create for the community? As you pursue those goals, what
values do you want to be sure guide that work? And as you start planning for
how you will use the next year's work to further your vision for the community,
are there areas of "What you do" - your mission - that might need to expand?
As you create your annual
plans, thoughtfully consider how those plans align behind your dreams for the
community. And make sure your 3 Statements are guiding those plans.
the Values Statement to Evaluate Your ED / CEO
Evaluating your CEO based on what they did is easy. We tally up everything the
CEO was directed to do, and see if that was, in fact, done.
But if your CEO knows
he/she will also be evaluated based on whether or not he/she adhered to your
Values Statement in doing that work, you will then be able to measure not only
whether he/she did the work, but how that work was done.
the 3 Statements to Evaluate the Board's Own Performance Throughout the
It is the
rare board that takes the time to evaluate itself. We have watched boards
openly rebel against doing that at meetings, seeing it as a time-waster. But if
boards are not monitoring their own progress, how can they move the
A simple board
self-evaluation can be done by using the 3 Statements
Have we done our work in a way that will move our vision
forward? Have we focused entirely on our mission, at the exclusion of our
vision? How might we change our work to aim at that vision?
we done our work in a way that monitors to ensure we really are accomplishing
our mission? And if not, how might we change our work to ensure we are indeed
accomplishing that work?
we done our work in a way that adheres to the universally shared values at the
core of our Values Statement? And if not, how might we change our work to
ensure we are indeed walking our talk?
The board is the leader of
the organization. If the board is assessing its own work in light of these 3
Statements, it is taking a huge step in reaching for the organization's highest
potential to create an amazing community.
Conclusion: A Mission
Statement that tells what the organization does, while necessary, is
incomplete. By adding the Vision Statement that explains why the organization
is doing that work - where it is aiming - and the Values Statement explaining
how the organization will do that work, the board will have three solid tools
to serve as a barometer, regardless of who is on the board at the time.
Put your organization's 3 Statements
into Action! Click
creating these 3 Statements, and by committing to have those statements guide
your organization's work, your board will have 3 simple yet powerful tools for
ensuring continuity of your efforts to create a better future for the community