In my previous column, I waxed about putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to marketing. My point was that our mouth, our voice, our marketing is grossly underfunded and because of that, our missions fall short–very short.
Much to my surprise, the column was the most viewed that week and there are some gems to choose from here. I assume it wasn’t just my mom refreshing the page every hour of every day. I know it wasn’t, she doesn’t how to “turn on” the Internet. That leads me to believe that people resonate with doing new things, doing big things beyond just managing and maintaining.
It’s a Sprint, Not a Marathon
Nonprofit marketers and executives are under daily pressure to perform with excellence. Their board is in one ear, staff is in the other ear, clients/community are in the other ear and donors are in the other ear. You get the point.
I have a saying: Nonprofits have a double bottom line–missional and financial–therefore double the responsibility. It is tough work to just maintain and not slip backwards. However, as nonprofit marketers, we are stewards of much more than just resources and services. We are responsible for solving and ending very complex, enormous, and historical social problems.
Mission statements are suppose to be the piercing lighthouse in an industry that can become blinded by the fog of chasing dollars just to keep the doors open, just to survive and maintain. When the internal and external operating waters get choppy, and mission creep begins to pull at us, we should fix our eyes on the mission statement to steer us back on course. However, many of us are guilty of steering our ships based on our own internal compasses. We can recite the mission statement forwards and backwards, yet the gravitas of its inception and purpose is somehow lost on us.
Much like a lighthouse, the purpose of a mission statement isn’t to keep us out at sea, rather to bring us home and end our journey.
As I mentioned in my previous column, we need to start using marketing to end and solve (big) things. It is no longer acceptable to merely bring awareness to a cause. We need to stop using our mouth, our voice, our marketing to just keep the doors open. We need to put our money where our mouth is to do just the opposite–go out of business.
Who Has Done It
While there are undoubtedly more, there is one well documented and discussed example of a nonprofit leveraging all its resources to ending something and accomplishing their mission. That organization is the March of Dimes and the mission was to eradicate polio. While following their success, they repurposed and broadened their mission to continue serving infants and families. They were charged with a mission by the President of the United States to end something and they did.
While many of us haven’t been asked by the President to solve or end anything, we have a more permanent and often more powerful presence looking to us to do big things for them: our world.
With the advancement open-source technologies and social media becoming commonplace, more nonprofits are being established than ever before in our history. There were over 400,000 new nonprofits established in the United States alone in the last decade. There is a reason: “necessity is mother of all invention.”
Because so many missions are going unaccomplished, people are taking matters into their own hands and creating their own organizations. Many individuals who once received services from nonprofits have grown tired of the commitment to maintaining the status quo and have risen from the ashes to collaborate . . . and compete.
How It’s Done
Recently, a nonprofit has risen to the challenge and is using their marketing and mission statement to bring them home and to close their doors. Malaria No More supplies bed nets in malaria zones with a goal to end deaths from malaria. They have set a clear goal to their supporters and stay on message to that end in all things they do. They have stayed so laser-focused on their marketing and messaging, on their mission, they have announced the plan to close their doors by 2015. Mission accomplished.
Should you find yourself following suit and pushing all of your chips to the middle, you should be aware of the responsibilities and realities involved in dissolving. The Fieldstone Alliance has compiled a great resource outlining realities, and with the statement of statements on the cover: “The point at which a nonprofit organization’s mission is ‘to survive’ is the point at which the organization should consider going out of business.”
Are you in it to end it?