One defining characteristic of a leader is having a vision for the future, describing that future and creating excitement around its possibility so everyone works together to make it real. That’s what a mission statement is -- it’s that vision for a better future everyone can rally around. For communities, it’s the impetus that drives micro-actions, like sending a tweet or recommending an answer, to long-term commitments, like becoming a volunteer moderator.
To truly lead your community and create excitement for both your organization and your members, you need to have a mission statement that brings everyone together.
Google is a great example of a company mission that drives its thousands of employees, teams and projects towards the same end.
Google’s mission statement is so effective because it runs through every aspect of the company and through everyone’s mind -- and, yes, it is just as lofty as the company is large: “to organize all the world’s information.” It’s the common thread that keeps everyone on the same page, no matter their role, background or project.
Without it, would Google be able to succeed with so many seemingly independent parts? Who knows, but it certainly would be more difficult to move everyone in the same, cohesive direction.
As Google shows, a mission statement is the anchor that holds a company in place and the thesis everyone has in mind as they work. Most companies -- from behemoths like Google to small, growing organizations -- have a mission statement that everyone can reference and motivates teams to push forward.
A lot of well known companies have strong mission statements. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, is another great example. Its mission statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
But what makes a strong mission statement, and how is it different than a set of goals?
Most likely, you have goals when it comes to the community. Although goals are critical for a community’s success, don’t confuse them with a mission statement. Just like a mission statement, goals can be lofty and large.But when it comes down to it, they’re tactical steps towards the mission. A mission statement can help you set community goals because, with each goal, you ask the same question: “Is this furthering our mission?” If the answer is “no,” then you need to rethink your goals.
A good community mission statement takes two big groups into account -- the organization and the members. A community is the bridge between those two constituents, so it makes sense that the community’s mission statement needs to resonate equally with both, right?
You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch -- what’s your organization’s mission statement? What do they need the community to do, and what value do they see in this tool? Really dig into how the community fits into your organization’s business goals and its vision for the future.
Now, go to your members. What do they need from the community? Why do they log in, download the app, or donate their time to help moderate? While talking and surveying your members on this, forget about your organization’s goals -- really listen to your members and figure out how you can serve them.
Once you have this information, you need to start looking for the common ground between those two groups. That’s where you’re going to find the seeds for a mission statement that will guide all your community efforts -- satisfying both your organization and your members.
And remember: don’t be afraid if your mission statement is lofty.
Without a strong purpose and destination, how will you and your team know how to guide the community? Just like a company, every community needs a mission statement that your community manager, staff and members can go back to, ensuring each goal and action is in line with the community’s best interests.
A mission statement also guides decision making. As a community professional, you often have to make quick decisions and it’s hard to look down your list of goals to make sure the action you’re about to take is in line with them.
But a strong mission statement can streamline your thinking, allowing you to confidently make quick decisions that you know support the community’s goals. So start with a strong mission to anchor your team and let that guide your goal making.