Nonprofit organizations use mission statements to guide their actions. They know that such statements are meant to drive their their strategy. That is, programming ought to advance the purpose and fit the values of the nonprofit. At the same time, what does the mission statement mean to other audiences? Volunteers may be propelled to act due to the inspiration it provides. Donors may use it to underline their support. Board members may turn to the nonprofit’s mission statement as a measuring stick for their own involvement. Everything must align with the organization’s values and purpose.
Why am I writing about this? Because this week I was researching nonprofit mission statements for my internship and a paper for graduate school. I’d already been familiar with corporate mission statements, and to be honest, in the working world, have always felt business mission statements were geared more specifically towards prospects and clients. Marketing tools. That may be my cynical self speaking. While corporate mission statements are not often cause-driven, I have seen non-publicly traded companies which do have a mission and live by it and younger social good companies which make a difference.
Regardless of the type of organization, the idea is a good one.
Find the words to describe what you do and why you do it and why it is important to you. Not only should organizations, whether non-profit or for-profit, make sure that their activities are aligned with their mission, but they should periodically revisit the statement to see if it still holds true.
Okay, so the idea is solid. But what about personal mission statements? How would I approach formulating one? Examples and advice how to write them abound. I have to think about this. What guiding principles do I want to guide my life, my actions, my time, my priorities, the choices I make? How will I be sure that they reflect the values I hold dear or will help me strengthen those character traits I wish I embodied better?
I’ve never given thought to having one before, though I have a friend who puts one together annually. A number of observations is making me rethink this. Maybe it is time.
The overriding one is that time itself is precious and, as I remember writing in a short story when I was a teenager, every day that goes by is one less we have left in our lives.
This past year, we have seen so many lives cut short or significantly impacted by Covid-19. We’ve also seen people who have been hurt by others’ hate and denigration. And because of my journey into family history and genealogy, I am also painfully aware how fleeting all our lives are to begin with. Lastly, as my own need for reading glasses and hearing aids and all the accoutrements of aging drive home, I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me and importantly, I want to make them count.
A personal mission statement can be about accomplishments. Or not. It can be about the values we want to ensure that we live by, and we can use it to help us make wise choices about how and with whom we spend our time, how we treat others, what example we leave in our wake. Prioritization and alignment. Alignment and prioritization.
Hmmm…what matters to me?
And what matters to you?