The Mission CreateAthon Chose to Accept

  • Written by Andrea Goulet
Here at CreateAthon, we just finished Focus Fest 2012 — a two-day, in-person meeting of the minds to shape the strategy of our new non-profit organization. We (Teresa, Julie, Maria, Jody, Peyton, and Andrea) sat around the Riggs conference table knowing the work we did today would have a major impact for years to come. No pressure, or anything.

One of the biggest agenda items was the mission statement. As we start to seek funding from grants and corporate partners, it’s becoming more important to have a succinct description of our work. But how do you explain the awesomeness that is CreateAthon in just one sentence?

A difficult task for sure, but one that we were up to. Here’s the process we followed:

Discover the Purpose

Purpose is an anchor for any team. So, we started by stating ways a mission statement is important. A mission statement:

  1. describes why an organization exists, not what it does
  2. motivates board, staff, volunteers, and donors
  3. directs strategy and programing decisions

Define Success

Next, we compiled a checklist of criteria for a good mission statement. We determined an effective mission statement:

    • is short and easy to repeat
    • is specific
    • focuses on the ends, not the means
    • is declarative (avoids words such as try, seek, influence, or encourage)
    • uses verbs prominently
    • avoids jargon and technical language that’s meaningless in the outside world
    • has an active voice
    • stands out

Learn from the Best

We pulled examples of mission statements that meet all these success criteria. We particularly liked the mission of the American Lung Association: The American Lung Association saves lives by improving lung heath and preventing lung disease.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Editing practice was next. We took missions (some fake, some real) that needed help and revamped them until they met the success criteria we had outlined. This was an important step in the process; it helped us work together as a team and practice objectivity.

Evaluate Our Existing Mission

Looking at our current verbiage,

CreateAthon is a 24-hour, work-around-the-clock creative blitz during which marketing advertising and public relations firms provide nonprofit marketing services on a pro bono basis.

we met most of the success criteria, but noticed several ways that we needed to improve.

  1. remove jargon (ex: “creative blitz” may not mean much to people outside of the marketing industry)
  2. shorten
  3. focus on the why, not the what (ex: Were we always going to have 24-hour marathons? 12 hour marathons work great for corporate in-house teams. Did we want to limit ourselves?)
  4. improve our choice of verbs

Write New Missions Individually

Ten minutes of individual work-time was just what we needed to get our creative juices flowing. When we shared our thoughts with the group, everyone loved a sentence that Julie wrote, “CreateAthon is a champion for effective non-profit marketing.” Peyton became misty-eyed. Andrea perked up in her chair and shouted, “I love it!”

Collaborate and Refine

This portion of the process took the most time. For about an hour, we whittled at the words until we felt our creation met all the success criteria. Maria did a great job of jargon checking. Should it be “non-profit marketing” or “marketing for non-profits”? A great question that prompted an in-depth discussion that made us all step into our target market’s shoes. With a little bit of research, we became confident in our choice.

Approve and Celebrate

We sat back and looked at our new mission:

CreateAthon champions effective non-profit marketing through pro bono marathons.

The room became quiet and we started to realize that we had arrived at consensus. A feeling of “That’s it! It’s so simple! Why didn’t we think of this before!” started to envelop the room. Smiles creeped on our faces. We took a vote and the aye’s had it. As a final check, we put our new mission up against our success criteria. It passed. We cheered!

As Julie and Peyton tweeted about the experience, “we just gave birth w/o an epidural!” It feels that way. CreateAthon national is born!