Friday, February 29, 2008

What's a good mission statement?

A couple of weeks back, I posted on having taught at Boston University, and one of the classes was focused on finding good nonprofits to give to. One of their criteria was finding the best mission statement, and they asked me for some criteria. Since that class, I have coincidentally had a number of emails from other organizations asking basically the same question.

Here's my drill on this:

1. Less is more. The mission statement is an identifier, an "elevator message" and a motivator. You have to be able to convey what you do quickly to people to make your organization stand out. In an era with short attention spans, this has to be done quickly. If your mission statement is three pages long, or has 20 adjectives, it does nothing but bore. Think short.

2. First Vision, then Mission, then Values. One way to shorten many mission statements is to attend to the vision-mission-values sequence and to keep them separate. Vision is how you would like the world to look. Mission is what your organization does to help realize that vision, and values is how you do it (with respect, dignity, etc.). Many organizations put all three in their mission statement, insuring that they violate rule 1 above.

3. Use the mission everywhere. Once you focus and refine your mission statement, use it everywhere: in meetings, on paper, on your website, everywhere. Talk about it constantly. Make it an integral tool in decision making, budgeting, prioritizing, and planning. Remember, the mission is the reason your organization exists---so make it central to everything you do.

What's the best mission? It depends, but here's a great list of Best Charity Mission Statements from

If you want to add to this list, just click on it......

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bright eyes, Boston version

Had the great pleasure of speaking to both an undergrad and graduate class at Boston University's School of Management yesterday. Thanks to Professors McCormack and Post for letting me borrow their students.

Both classes were fun; with the undergraduates I talked about the characteristics of a good nonprofit, which should fit well into their big project: figuring out how to give $15,000 away to nonprofit applicants, which is, I suspect, harder than they thought it would be. The class is using Mission-Based Management as its core text, so there was a fair amount of give and take on what makes a good nonprofit, and how my characteristics of good nonprofits would also work for a for-profit.

In the grad class, we spent most of our time discussing what social entrepreneurship (SE) is, how the definition has changed, expanded, morphed and been adopted by a wide range of different activities. For me a social entrepreneur has always been "someone who takes risk on behalf of the people their nonprofit serves". However, the class defined SE as a business that is socially responsible, and a philanthropist who figures out how to help a nonprofit succeed, and someone who sets up businesses that help the underprivileged. We even went round and round about what social good is---and does it have to apply to people who are oppressed, or poor, or, or, or....

As you might guess, all of this was great fun for me, and I hope helpful for the students. It made me miss my teaching at Kellogg even more.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Some online help for you....

Two things popped up on my laptop this morning, both of which will be of interest to any nonprofit looking to maximize its website usefullness.

First, is SEMcares, and organization made up of Search Engine Marketing professionals who help nonprofits pro bono (or at deep discounts) get more from their website. If broad exposure is important to your organization, check them out.

Second is Google Grants. Anyone who cruises the web knows about Google Ads, those little boxes that show up to the right of a search query. I use them myself, and pay only when someone clicks on the box and goes to my website, or to this blog. It's called Google AdWords.

Google Grants allows you to do use AdWords for free.... if you qualify and apply. Thus, you could have a broader reach, and for free! Here's a hint as well: setting up AdWords is a breeze.

Check both of these resources out!