I’ve been watching the kids from Parkland, FL force the country to face our gun safety problems.
They’ve succeeded in grabbing our attention for many reasons. But one important reason is that they’ve defined their cause. Successfully, boldly and in a united way.
We know what they’re fighting. We know what they want.
They’re not in the weeds of gradations of policy.
They’re in our faces with a simple message: “You’ve failed to keep us safe. We’re going to do it ourselves.”
I wonder how many nonprofits need that clarity and commitment.
- Do you describe your work with a dense mission statement?
- Do you talk about what you do, not what you accomplish?
- Are you fighting for something or against something?
- Can you tell someone why your organization matters in a few bold words?
Too often, these important statements are the work of a committee. Trust me, committees should never write. They should talk. They should argue. But one writer should turn those conversations and decisions into something powerful.
A mission statement should be a powerful communications tool, not something you simply park on your website. The work you put in to create a great one will pay off for messaging well beyond the statement.
I know you work hard. We all do. But your labor is not what’s important to the outside world.
If your mission statement or other communication talks about “working to” or “striving to”, I’ll bet it was written by a committee. Worse, a committee of insiders.
If you ask someone for money, don’t ask them to fund your labor. Ask them to fund your achievements. Don’t ask for money so your super staff can do great things. Ask for money so your donors can achieve great things.
What’s your fight?
You should be boldly for something or against something. I know that’s not always easy.
For advocacy groups, this makes perfect sense. But what about an arts organization?
Well, do you stand for the critical role theater plays in our culture? For the need for people to come together to experience lives and worlds outside their own?
Do you stand against a world where art and artists are undervalued?
Yes, you will have a harder time with your thoughts and language. But you can do it. And you should do it.
Because you need to be able to express your convictions, your cause, with passion.
Say it simply
Do you have a sense now of what your cause is?
Do you know why people should want to join you in it?
Keep working until you want to shout it from a rooftop. Keep working until it makes you all worked up to think about it.
Then sit down and write it. As a tweet.
No long paragraphs. No complex concepts or fancy words.
Focus all the passion you’ve summoned. Pour it into a container small enough that it’s busting out. That it insists on being heard.
Make it so powerful that people reading it can’t say, “That’s nice, dear.” That they must say either “YES!” or “NO!”
You don’t communicate a cause with a five page thesis. Or with a list of policy positions.
If you need too many words to communicate it, you haven’t isolated the real emotion of it.
When you have it, when the passion is pulsing from your words… then you’re ready to use it.
Use the messaging everywhere. Embed that messaging in all your communications. Simplicity, focus and repetition are your friends.
You have a cause.
You just have to understand it and make it sing.