call-to-arms-logocI have a confession: I love mission-driven organizations, but I really hate their mission statements.

How did the bold declaration of “We’re on a mission to change things!” wilt into the mess of weasel words and passive voice found in far too many nonprofit mission statements?  The mission statement is supposed to be an organization’s North Star, yet they rarely contain enough spark to light up the room, much less a movement. All too often, an organization’s mission statement reads as if written by committee (which, in all likelihood, it was); watered down to the lowest common denominator of dry jargon and listless language.

And so I propose an alternative: The Mission Manifesto. Like any good revolutionary force, your organization needs a bold statement of beliefs to guide your efforts and help others understand your cause. To get you started, just remember that a Mission Manifesto is:

  • Transformative – A manifesto is a call to change. Think about it: Have you ever seen a manifesto calling to preserve the status quo?
  • Provocative – Manifestos, by definition, are about challenging the status quo and advancing an alternate view. A strong mission manifesto provokes people to see things in a new light, through the worldview of your ideas and your ideals. A mission manifesto delivers fresh perspective, new analysis and new solutions – just like your organization!
  • Emotive – A manifesto isn’t just about an idea, it’s about the powerful emotions that drive people toward ideas.   A good mission manifesto taps into something I want deep in my soul.
  • Collective – Because it serves as an articulation of a shared system of beliefs, a brand manifesto is always written for the “we.”
  • Declarative – A manifesto is all about taking a strong stance, and therefore should be expressed as such. No weasel words, no mushy language, and most certainly no passive voice! Give your bold thinking the expression it demands.
  • Active – Your revolutionary idea will rise or fall based on the strength of the people who take action to advance it. Therefore, a mission manifesto is a call to arms, a call to roll up your shirtsleeves and dig your hands into the rewarding work of a cause you feel strongly about.
  • Directive – A manifesto makes it clear what we have to do. As a decision filter, it can serve as an excellent tool to drive and align your organization’s efforts.

For inspiration, here are a few favorite samples of strong Mission Manifestos:

So, what’s your bold statement of beliefs?

Photo courtesy of  Premise PUNCH Tag.

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Holly MinchHolly Minch is LightBox Collaborative’s founding partner and wrote the LightBox Collaborative manifesto on the back of a napkin in Mystic, Connecticut.