All of us love the word “mission”. We use it a lot. Our organizations are “mission-driven”. Our work is our “mission” in life. When we make decisions we ask if it will help advance our mission. Mission, mission, mission!
Mission is good. Mission is great! It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up late at night. It informs our entire organization, our donors and our beneficiaries. But our mission isn’t really where it’s at. Vision is what actually got you into the non-profit world. Vision is the pie-in-the sky goal that will do away with the need for your non-profit. Mission keeps your organization in business. Vision moves your organization forward.
What do I mean by that? My organization’s mission is to provide lifesaving surgery to children with heart defects in developing countries. But that’s our mission because most children in developing countries don’t have access to it. My vision is that all children born with a heart defect will have access to lifesaving care no matter where they live or what their economic status.
I get lost in mission a lot. It’s hard not to – I have to spend most of my time finding help for the children who need us or they’ll die. But if all I ever do is raise more money to fund more surgery all we’ll ever be is a band-aid. One million children are born with a heart defect. Half of them need surgery. There’s less than a thousand surgeons in the entire world qualified to help them. It’s not hard to do the math. Funding is the least of my cause community’s problems.
When I lift my head up from mission and look at my vision I start to think about solutions. The funny thing is, they’re not really that pie-in-the-sky. They may take a long time and they may take a lot of support, but vision breeds support. Fanatic support.
Your donors, your Board, your volunteers – they want to be part of a solution.
If you can communicate your vision to them effectively you’ll have a band of disciples ready and willing to help with vision and with mission. My organization is in the beginning stages of working to change how doctors are certified to become congenital heart surgeons. We have an uphill battle to be sure, but I’ve shared our vision with leaders of other organizations in our cause space and we have the support of every last one of them. It’s energized us. It makes saying no to 35 families a week and only saying yes to five bearable.
Spend some time today clarifying your vision for your cause and then let your organization know what it is and how you’re going to lead them to it. Inspire yourself, inspire your community and go build change!