Why Mission Banks
are a Teamqore Staple
The words in a mission statement penetrate to the core of an organization’s identity.
The client is a nonprofit that is being newly established in the United States. A team of professionals from the for-profit sector came together to start the organization to serve an unmet need in the community. It had a new Executive Director and a development coordinator. Other positions were held by volunteers, some of whom were board members. The organization existed to provide for culturally specific needs of seniors who were parents of immigrants and still had a home base in their country of origin. Other nonprofits serving that demographic did not provide services appropriate for this ethnic group.
Teamqore was asked to engage in a strategic planning exercise, including reviewing the nonprofit’s mission statement.
Teamqore is often asked to review a nonprofit’s mission statement. Sometimes the ask is in the form of a reauthoring of the mission statement and sometimes it is an engagement with all stakeholders to assess their theory of change. In our team, we carry the DNA of having been a part of mission co-writing as volunteers, members of strategic planning teams, as consultants and board members. We’ve held the insiders view, feverishly writing, smithing words with ferocity and intent, deeply engaged in the process. We’ve also experienced this exercise one step removed, checking our emotions and preferences at the door to partner with nonprofit clients in this most core and intimate of tasks.
By nature, in the nonprofit world, this can become a process where people hold views that can diverge. And often, if you are a nonprofit stakeholder you have a deep connection to the cause and its impact. The mission means more to you than an exercise in planning or branding. The words in a mission statement penetrate to the core of a stakeholders identity.
We met with executive and board leadership and other stakeholders at the beginning of this process to actively listen for cues that would guide us to the points of view and identity that were held closely by our client. We knew from listening to them tell their stories, and their responses to carefully crafted interviews, where participants were likely to diverge. We augmented our listening by reading all that was available to us – reports, websites, videos. This advance preparation helps inform our creation of a custom mission bank exercise to help participants find the threads of what they want to see in their mission statement.
Depending on the nonprofit, divergence in mission views can come if the work is intersectional, and one identity trumps the other. Sometimes it is a conflict between having long versus short term horizons. We often see that people vary between being aspirational and very specific. And sometimes our assessment tells us that while there is agreement on what the organization needs to do, priorities are weighted differently, across participants.
All of this, coupled with a deep sense of identification with the cause can lead to either a very long drawn out engagement or one where there is a great deal of divergence. This is why Teamqore creates a “mission bank”, a term coined by us to describe a curated bank of mission statements that are specific to the nonprofit, and leads our partners through a series of mission bank exercises.
Solutions & Implementation
Teamqore created a curated bank of mission statements specific to this organization. It was especially crafted to include mission statements that captured the divergences identified in the team participating in this exercise.
In this case, the actual exercise involved a series of smaller exercises that used a workshop format. As our participants journeyed through the exercise, they internalized the standards a mission statement must meet, what its purpose is, who its audience is. By design, participants need to negotiate and choose options that meet the exercise goal. Since all of this was done with live mission statements that belong to organizations that they knew or had heard of, despite knowing that they were in a simulated exercise, the experience becomes a lived one.
Our client came away from this exercise thinking of it as their ‘northstar’ mission experience. It guided their thinking, and allowed them to hear what others were saying, without feeling that their own wishes were at stake. They thought about how they were articulating the mission statement and understood how it landed on other stakeholders.
We united the team by building awareness and a shared understanding that set our clients up to have an engaged and passionate conversation, without any feelings of being unheard or unvalued. At the conclusion of our engagement, the organization felt well prepared by the simulation exercise to constructively engage in their own mission crafting.