Choose to accept this mission


Remember Mission: Impossible? I loved that show, especially the opening scene when Mr. Phelps received details about the next Cold War caper upon which his team would embark. The serious voice on the audio tape always told Mr. Phelps that he had the option to refuse a mission, but of course, he never did.

I suppose the creation of a mission statement is, in the strictest sense, optional, but it is unwise to forego the exercise. This is especially important for non-profit organizations. Many businesses are self-explanatory, although many successful businesses also craft effective mission statements, but a non-profit without a clear and compelling mission statement is like a ship without a rudder. Additionally, the mission statement is the point from which your marketing and communications efforts flow. Again and again you will return to it to clarify your strategy when too many ideas, often many of them excellent, muddy the waters.

Always ask yourself, and your staff, if a proposed letter, ad, blog post, project, or event clearly supports your stated mission.

To get started, check out this 75-second (yes, only 75 seconds!) video from TopNonprofits. It’s excellent.

For inspiring examples, follow their suggestion and check out the accompanying article.

Pressed for time? Set a limited amount of time to work on this project, perhaps an hour per week, until you get it nailed down. Bounce ideas off staff, key supporters, and board members.

I would love to assist you in crafting your organization’s mission statement. Please give me a call.

Connecting with donors


There’s a great Far Side cartoon that depicts a man trying to correct a dog for an offense. In the first panel, titled “What we say,” the man is scolding: “I’ve had it, Ginger! Stay out of the garbage. Do you hear me, Ginger? Bad dog, Ginger.” In the second panel, titled “What they hear,” the dog interprets, “Blah, blah, Ginger! Blah, blah, blah, Ginger,” etc.

Working for non-profits for many years, there were times when I thought my communication skills were no better than that guy’s. Every message sounded the same to my ears.

To my surprise, I learned that, in a lot of ways, it was supposed to sound the same.

Because I was working for a non-profit with a clear and compelling mission statement, I discovered that it was a sign of having your ducks in a row if the main point essentially sounded identical from donor letter to donor letter, feature story to feature story, video to video. Supporters prefer to contribute to organizations that know exactly what they are doing and why.

What should change is the way in which a non-profit frames it’s consistent message.

It is in that re-framing that a wonderful thing often occurs: The switch is turned “on” and suddenly someone who was on the fringe of your audience buys into the message that they really can be part of your mission. That, dear readers, is exciting.

There are several ways to re-frame your message to get those exciting moments of resonance with your audience. Priority One is to include in every exchange a specific call to action. People want to help but most don’t have a lot of time so it’s up to you to give them solid suggestions. (I’ve altered my examples below for a variety of non-profits.)

Get specific with what a gift can do.

  • How much does it cost to care for an abandoned dog or cat for one week?┬áMake that exact figure, or one like it, a giving option in print and online forms.
  • Itemize a grocery list to feed a family of four for one week and ask donors to provide it for your food pantry.
  • What does it take to fill a bag of personal-care items for a homeless man or woman, a nursing home resident, or the single mom of an infant? Get specific with the items and give supporters the option of contributing money or in-kind donations.

Provide something tangible for your donors as a way to keep your mission in front of them.

  • Bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, bracelets and more can serve as reminders to donors to continue their support. (Regarding give-away items such as pens, magnets, etc., don’t get the cheapest item available, no matter how tempting the price may look.)
  • Some items, such as bookmarks, can be incorporated into print materials. A creative graphic artist can help you brainstorm.

Tell stories

  • Brief stories about someone your organization has helped can be the approach that flips the “on” switch for many donors. Leave out identifying information to protect your clients’ confidentiality. Tell their story with accuracy as well as heart.
  • For those who are open to telling their own story, give them an opportunity to say “thank you” to donors. This could be done by publishing excerpts from letters, original art work, brief snippets of a video interview, etc. Be sure the client is informed and agrees, in writing, to the ways in which you intend to use what they share with you.

The year-end giving season is practically upon us. Don’t miss an opportunity to re-tell your mission in creative ways. If you need help, email me at danniewriter@gmail.com or call (502) 432-8725.


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