3 Tips to Better Communicate Your Mission

This post was originally published on SimpleChange

By Alfonso Ricardi

As all social-sector professionals know, we don’t always have the opportunity to thoroughly explain what we do. Sometimes we just have time to write a quick e-mail, talk for a minute, or send people to our website so people can understand what our project is about.

Of course, we might be incredibly motivated, be solving a real problem, and have a very innovative business model, but none of that will matter if we are unable to explain what is it that we do.

To Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing, this is one of the reasons the social sector is losing money. While trying to explain who they are, what they do, and what they believe in, social organizations often use language that confuses their interest groups: investors, volunteers, the board, or the staff. As Erica says, if people get confused, they will not get hooked.

Nevertheless, she explains in an article for Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are three ways to solve this issue:

1. Less is more

Can we explain our mission in a whole paragraph? Yes, but that’s not always recommendable; sometimes a mission statement can be so extensive that it is not understandable or interesting.
“If you tell someone everything, they generally remember nothing,” she writes.

That is why it is important to keep the mission concise, to the point, and, above everything, understandable.

To this point, Erica recommends using the Flesch test, which helps analyze how easily readable a text is — in this case, your mission.

If you get a score of 0 to 30, the text can only be understood by university graduates, meaning that it is hard to understand. If the score is 60 to 70, it can be comprehended by students of 13 to 15 years, and from 90 to 100 it is understandable to everyone.

2. Expand your language

Erica argues that people pay more attention to organizations that use words that others are not using.

Develop, improve, empower, change, push, educate, and inspire are examples of words that are commonly seen in missions of entrepreneurs or social organizations, and sometimes it just becomes tedious to hear the same words again and again.

A solution Erica developed to help organizations is The Wordifier, a free tool that helps social organizers find new words to use in their missions.

3. Use better verbs

According to Erica’s investigation, the verbs that are most used by nonprofits are “support,” “make,” and “provide.”

If your mission uses “improve,” perhaps think about using “boost” or “enhance.”

The key resides in researching other word options and other ways of saying what is it that you do.

How do you write a good mission statement?

Kevin Starr, director of Mulago Foundation, explains in a keynote on Poptech a very easy way to write a concise and understandable mission statement:

  • It must be composed of a maximum of eight words
  • It must have a verb, a target population, and a result

Check out these examples:

Échale a tu casa
“We build families´ homes with the families.”
Verb, check. Target population, check. Result, check.

One Acre Fund
“Working to make small farmers more prosperous.”
Verb, yes. Target population, yes. Result, yes.

If you apply Erica´s advice along with Kevin´s structure, you can develop a great mission statement that perfectly communicates what you do and that also differentiates your organization from others.

What other tips do you suggest?