The Winner of the 2014 #WorstMissionStatement Contest is…

Center for Justice, Mission StatementThe Center for Justice!

Of all the entries, this one really stood out:

“The Center for Justice is a legal advocacy organization that works to empower individuals and provides vigorous oversight and advocacy when community rights need to be defended and community voices need to be heard.”

Before we dig into what could be improved about this statement, let’s talk about what it has going for it:

  • In the land of nonprofit Mission Statements, it’s relatively short. It isn’t a laundry list of absolutely, positively everything they do (although it could be more rigorous…more on that in a minute).
  • It’s not totally vanilla. There are some words with oomph in here—vigorous, defend, etc.

That said, this Mission Statement doesn’t do justice to the work of the Center for Justice.

  • The Reading Ease Score is a mere 3.3. That means the reader can’t understand 96.7% of it. #Drat
  • Even though it’s not a big ol’ long laundry list, it’s still trying to do too much. Your Mission Statement should concisely state what you do (and sometimes, space permitting, how you do it). By my count, there are five examples of what they do: 1) empower individuals, 2) provide oversight, 3) provide advocacy, 4) defend community rights, and 5) allow community voices to be heard. Are all these created equal? Usually the answer is ‘no’. Are some more important than others? Usually the answer is ‘yes’.
  • The statement hedges. Rather than “empowering individuals” they “work to empower individuals”. The addition of qualifiers such as work, trying, endeavoring, etc is very common in nonprofit Mission Statements. They get added because you don’t want to overstate your influence, i.e. the Center isn’t single-handedly responsible for empowering the individuals it serves. This is true and yet I still recommend you ditch the qualifiers.

Folks will know you’re not completely and utterly responsible for every single aspect of the empowerment (or oversight or advocacy, etc). We add qualifiers because we worry we’ll find ourselves at a BBQ with someone waggling a drumstick at us and saying, “Oh yeah? How is it that you do all that empowering?” That seems scary but it’s actually a good thing! Because question are good, right? Right. So no more qualifiers.

I don’t love the word ‘empowerment’ because it’s overused, but I appreciate and understand that for some groups—and often for those working in the field of legal advocacy—it’s an important word. Assuming that’s the case for the Center for Justice and we leave ‘empowerment’ in their statement, they might end up with something like this:

“The Center for Justice empowers individuals and communities through legal defense and advocacy.”

Other options with a significantly higher readability score include:

“The Center for Justice uses the law to protect individual and community rights.”

“The Center for Justice uses the law to defend individual and community rights.”

Remember: The job of your Mission Statement is to communicate your essence, not your everything. If someone is interested in your essence, there will be plenty of time to tell them everything else there is to know about you and your wonderful work.

Thank you again to all the organizations who were brave enough to submit their Mission Statements for the Worst Mission Statement competition. We hope some of these suggestions will help you develop a Mission Statement that’s as great as the work you do!

Enter to win the ‘Worst Nonprofit Mission Statement Contest’

Mission Statements, Worst Mission Statement, Nonprofit Mission StatementI’ve been spending lots of time thinking about Mission Statements because of our Mini-Mission Makeover series. Turns out there’s nothing mini about how bad most Nonprofit Mission Statements are. To wit, this submission from Leslie Hall of the Michigan Rural EMS Network:

MiREMS is a diverse network representing EMS interest in Michigan developing partnerships with providers, to identify challenges, strategies, and opportunities to improve patient outcomes for all Michigan residents.”

Leslie also wrote, “If you have a Worst Mission Statement Contest, I believe I will be a strong contender!” With all due respect, Leslie, I couldn’t agree more.

Here we are, all about mission and yet the statements that are meant to reflect that mission are incomprehensible combos of meaningless words. This must stop. Mushy, incomprehensible Mission Statements drive people away, rather than bringing them in. And that’s no good. Let’s do a Failure Bow and move on.

We’re taking Leslie’s suggestion and hosting the Worst Nonprofit Mission Statement Contest. We need to get all this ridiculousness out of our systems, so we can move on to having Marvelous Mission Statements  that clearly and compellingly communicate what we do so that people can quickly and easily decide if they want to get involved.

Here’s how the contest will work:

  • By August 31, you enter to win by posting your organization’s Mission Statement on Claxon’s Facebook page.
  • In September, we will announce the three finalists in the Claxonette. (If you don’t already subscribe to the Claxonette, now’d be a good time to get yourself signed up.)
  • You will get to vote on which statement you think is the worst.
  • The Mission Statement with the most votes wins a copy of Pitchfalls and a Very Special Secret Gift!

Once we have all these terrible Mission Statements behind us, we’ll figure out how to get you a marvelous one, okay? Okay. Now hop to it and submit your statement!