by Kate Brierty, consultant at Hedges
Keeping an organization aligned during times of relentless rapid change can seem like an impossible task. Yet, it’s a task that many nonprofit leaders have faced on a whole new level since our world has been repeatedly hit with landscape-shifting changes over the past few years. The most successful leaders have taken on the difficult task of finding ways to keep what’s essential to their organization, while helping their team adapt their work to make meaningful impact in this new landscape. However, kicking off the plan to revisit, update, and align what’s at the core of your organization can be daunting.
In 2021, we gave organizations 5 questions they could answer to determine if the time is right to revisit their organization’s Vision, Mission, and Values. Many of you then shared that your organization’s essential statements were overdue for a review and refresh. So, today we want to offer insights into the obvious next question: What do we do now?
Although reviewing and revising your organization’s Vision, Mission, and Values is no small undertaking, there are a few straightforward steps you can adapt to implement a successful process for your team. We’ve outlined a 4-step update process that can leave your organization feeling more aligned, relevant, and ready to take on the changing landscape with confidence.
Step 1. Design and communicate the plan
An effective Vision, Mission, and Values review-and-revision process is intentional and inclusive, which does not happen by accident. Before you jump into editing, create a game plan for your organization’s approach. There are a few key questions to consider when structuring your revision process: What is actually up for adaptation? We encourage you to be open to reviewing all components of your Vision, Mission, and Values since they are so tightly linked and are all essential to your organization’s work.
Remember that leaving a statement open for review does not necessarily mean it will lead to any edits. However, if there is a piece of your Vision, Mission, and Values that is not on the table for potential edits, you should be transparent and provide context for that decision with all process participants to avoid frustration down the line.
Which stakeholders need to be invited to the process, and at what level of participation? Consider what voices and perspectives are needed at the table and then determine the most effective ways to allow those folks to participate. If these statements were originally created by a small group, then this is the perfect opportunity to be more inclusive and allow more voices to inform the process.
How will decisions be made? Get and be clear about how input will be considered, when decisions will be made, and who will be making them.
What is the timeline and what are the resources needed for this process? Once you know who will be included and how decisions will be made, then determine the timeline and resources (financial, staffing, etc.) that will be needed to complete this process as designed. Note: If you have another planning process happening soon (like strategic planning) you can consider how to thoughtfully combine these two planning pieces to maximize the resources allocated.
Once this plan is mapped, ensure that it is communicated to all relevant audiences in advance of asking them to participate. No one should find out about the process for the first time while being asked to give input on drafts. Thoughtful planning and communication can make sure no one feels blindsided or marginalized. Before the process begins, let your team know:
- How the process will look and who will be involved
- What about the Vision, Mission, and Values is actually up for review and adaptation
- Who will make decisions and how the decisions will be made
- How they specifically will be invited to participate throughout the process
Step 2. Answer core questions
Although it can be tempting to jump right into editing your current statements, consider beginning with an open conversation about what should be true for your organization’s Vision, Mission, and Values.
Revisit the definition of each of these statements and invite your team to answer the central questions that define them:
- Vision- If your organization were successful, what would the new reality look like for your community?
- Mission- What role does your organization play in helping create that new reality?
- Values- What beliefs and principles are central to how you do your work and operate in the community?
Whether you find that your team’s responses are perfectly aligned or very different, taking the time to openly answer these questions from the outset can help inform and strengthen the rest of your process. If you see lots of alignment, this can help you prioritize those concepts most important to people across your organization. If there is a great deal of misalignment across responses, it can pinpoint areas where you will need to put in effort to help everyone understand and get inspired by your organization’s updated Vision, Mission, and Values.
Step 3. Re-visit each statement in your current context.
Now you can draft updated statements in an informed way by bringing together your current statements, your team’s reflections from Step 2, and any other research and data you have available. While each statement should be tailored to meet the unique needs of your organization and its context, there are some tips to consider to help you draft the strongest statements with your team:
- Strong vision statements…
- are specific and simple, so everyone can easily understand this essential message.
- provide a challenge by describing the ideal reality your organization wants to see.
- inspire action and attract people to your cause.
- Strong mission statements…
- are succinct enough to be remembered and repeated by your team.
- utilize positive language to describe the important work your organization does.
- balances the emotional and pragmatic aspects of your work to ensure it is engaging but practical.
- Strong Values Statements…
- help to tell your organization’s story by expressing who you are and how you want to be known in your community.
- have enough context to help folks understand what this value means to your specific organization.
- can be utilized to guide decision-making and measure how these values show up in your work at the team and individual level.
Once these statements are drafted, be sure to follow the inclusive review and revision process that you mapped out and communicated in Step 1. It can be helpful to remind folks of the research and feedback steps that informed these updated drafts when you share them out.
Step 4. Share and incorporate
This is the easiest but often the most skipped step for a successful update process- Once you have these updated statements finalized, you should utilize them!
- Be thoughtful about how you want to roll out these updated statements with internal and external audiences:
- Consider how you can use these updated statements to help better align your current stakeholders and attract new supporters to your work.
- Be sure that stakeholders who were involved in the update process are thanked for their perspectives and time when these new statements are shared.
- Be proactive about providing context for any significant content changes you made, so that folks can understand the intentionality behind any of those larger edits. For Example- If you changed the way you identify the audience you serve in your Mission Statement, then you should be proactive in the way you communicate why the change was made and why you’re excited about it.
- Update all tools that are tied to your Vision, Mission, and Values to ensure these updated statements are guiding your work:
- Update all digital and printed materials to reflect your refreshed statements.
- Utilize the updated statements to help guide decision-making across the organization. Make sure leadership is modeling how these statements are used in critical full-team decisions and planning as well.
- Revise the structures and tools utilized to recruit, train, and evaluate the entire team- including staff, board, and volunteers- to ensure alignment with your organization’s updated Vision, Mission, and Values.
The best part is that these simple steps are also a cyclical process that can keep your organization ready for whatever changes come your way in the future. Consistently utilizing these updated statements (as outlined in Step 4) should help you easily identify when your organization has grown to the point where a Vision, Mission, and Values review and revision process might be needed again.
When you do determine it’s time for that update, you can simply repeat these 4 steps to help you shape a process that will leave you with a more invigorated and aligned organization primed for even greater impact. If you are interested in how Hedges can help your team engage in this 4-step process, please reach out to me at email@example.com so we can find a time to chat.
Kate Brierty is passionate about asking the right questions to help groups have conversations and make decisions that will create real impact for the people they serve. She has lived out this passion for over a decade in education and nonprofit spaces in Charlotte, Detroit, and Indianapolis. In all her work as a consultant at Hedges, Kate is focused on pursuing meaningful results while keeping people at the center of her work.