Not enough nonprofit leaders have vision. There, I said it.
The nonprofit industry is full of worthy missions. One would be hard pressed to say they disagreed with the missions of organizations who feed the hungry, treat sick children, save animals, or provide access to education. The list goes on.
The nonprofit industry doesn’t need more mission-based messages. Elevator pitches that talk about an organization’s mission are so 2020.
Because vision is what sets your organization apart from others.
You might wonder: What is the difference between mission and vision – and how do I communicate my vision?
Think of your mission as part of your “why” statement, the reason you do what you do. Missions are shaped by personal experiences and beliefs that help others relate to your organization. Your greatest supporters will likely share those beliefs, but you will also have supporters that have different connections to your cause. That’s okay – the “why” is meant to be personal.
Your vision is the world you seek to create. A vision states specifically what you are setting out to accomplish. It points your organization towards an ultimate destination, allowing you to create a roadmap of how to get there.
While missions inspire personal connections to your cause, visions are shared collectively. There is a single vision for an organization, and it doesn’t waiver – because getting to your destination requires everyone to be moving in the same direction.
Another key distinction: a vision is actionable. Vision will prompt important conversations, new questions from donors, and strategic thinking that can be channeled into solutions.
Here is an example of vision. I was in a meeting when someone shared that their vision was for someone to sit in his office (he was a doctor) and hear they had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and equate it to having a knee replacement.
You can see it, can’t you? Hearing that your mother, father, sister, or brother has received this diagnosis and not feeling like your world has just been shaken to its core. A knee replacement isn’t a walk in the park (my mom has had two), but it’s not a death sentence. This doctor’s vision is bold. It makes you want to know and hear more about his vision; hear more about how he plans to make this a reality for families.
His mission may be to find a cure for Alzheimer’s – but he could not achieve his mission without vision.
Visions allow organizations and leaders to think about outcomes and align priorities and goals with clarity.
Vision can be challenging for leaders and organizations. What makes vision so difficult?
- Vision requires responsibility and vulnerability;
- Vision requires accepting that not everyone will agree with you;
- Vision requires you to be bold, authentic, and, most of all, focused.
If a college president said to you, “Our vision is that no one in our community should live below the poverty line,” what would be your next question? How will the college achieve this vision? What is the role of your organization in achieving this vision? How can you help? Maybe you would ask why it is the role of that college, specifically. Why is it their vision?
Now is the time to talk to donors about your vision, and not just a vision of where your organization is going, but a vision for your community and those you wish to serve. Connecting your vision to the bigger picture is how you motivate donors and inspire transformational levels of philanthropy.
Donors are being bombarded more than ever with very worthwhile missions. Every organization needs more, bigger, better.
So give them what they deserve: Vision. Leadership. Solutions.