It almost goes without saying: whether you are a foundation, family office or individual donor, you need a clear mission statement. A mission is no guarantee you will change the world, but you can’t begin to do anything powerful and meaningful without it.
You may think a mission statement may pigeonhole your giving, and that’s understandable. However, most philanthropists would agree that establishing a mission—and a narrow mission, at that—makes decisionmaking much easier and giving dollars more effective.
Consider this: In the nonprofit world, people talk about “mission creep”—when a nonprofit tries to be all things to all donors, and as a result, stretches itself too thin. The same could be said about philanthropists who give to this cause and that, without any real focus or proactive planning. I call it “spray and pray” philanthropy—where donations are scattered to this nonprofit or that in the hope that something positive “might” be achieved.
There are countless social and internal pressures that may lend to the “spray and pray” approach, especially in the absence of a strong and intentional mission statement. Once you have a mission statement, it’s much easier to say no when you need to—namely to those opportunities and requests that fall outside the scope of your mission.
Here’s another reason why your mission matters: It makes for more fulfilling philanthropy. Most people want to feel connected with what they do. They want to believe they are making a difference and that their actions have a purpose. When you articulate and stand behind a mission—whether that’s a personal mission, a family mission, or a mission in making money or giving it away—you may feel you are a part of something bigger than yourselves. You’ll be able to see your progress and your purpose. What could be better than that?
It’s up to you, as a family, to create your purpose, the mission that motivates your giving, and answers the call to what your community (or the world) needs.
For a list of 8 questions to articulate your mission statement and more, download our new no-cost toolkit Laying the Groundwork: The Family Office Guide to Meaningful Giving, the first of the EngagedPhilanthropy™ series for family offices and family philanthropists.
Have you already created a mission statement? What tips can you share about the process? Drop me a comment or write me at Suzanne@SuzanneHammer.com. And as always, if you have questions, let me know how I can help.