Getting Buy-In for Your Mission Statement

If you're starting a nonprofit with a group of people, everyone needs to agree on the mission statement. Consider holding a meeting to solicit input from everyone. The important thing to keep in mind is that the more involved people are in creating a mission statement, the more likely they are to invest and believe in it.

When you're the sole founder

If you're setting out to start a nonprofit on your own, you'll soon discover that you need to gather more people around you. You need a board of directors and volunteers to help you move forward. Begin by finding people who share your values and, if not your passion, at least your desire to accomplish your aims.

Bring these people together to discuss your mission. Even an hour or two spent talking about what your organization can do helps you and your supporters come together around a common theme.

When you have a group of founders

If you've already assembled a group and everyone has agreed that it's time to incorporate and seek tax-exempt status, creating the mission statement should be one of the first things you do.

Having a group of like-minded people together gives you an advantage because you probably have identified your board of directors and key volunteers. But starting a nonprofit with a preformed group also carries some potential pitfalls. What happens, for example, if members of the group have different priorities?

Different factions almost always need to compromise in order to agree on a mission that enables the organization to use its limited resources in the most effective way. As the organization grows and more resources become available, more programs that address the concerns of the individual founders can be implemented.

Remember that mission statements aren't carved in stone. They can be changed. It's not advisable to make wholesale changes in your basic purpose, but you can alter the mission statement to either narrow or broaden your organization's focus, depending on your progress toward achieving the mission and the needs you see in your community.

For groups that are working together to establish a nonprofit organization, find an outside facilitator to guide the group through the inevitable discussions about priorities and the direction of the new organization. Finding a neutral person who can bring an outsider's perspective to the group's deliberations is almost essential. A facilitator also takes responsibility for managing the group so you and your colleagues can be full participants in the meeting. You can do it yourself, but you may be happier (and spend less time in meetings) if you get someone to help you.

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