Mission, Vision, and . . . Values?

Today, most sophisticated leaders recognize the need to begin with mission and vision when developing strategic priorities and campaign projects.  Besides being a logical approach to organizational strategic planning, major donors want to know that your goals to raise significant dollars are aligned with the purpose (mission) and the future (vision) of the organization.

The mission statement, of course, provides the definition of what the organization does. In a real sense it is the statement that can answer the question, “for what purpose do we exist?” It is the organization’s reason for being.

The vision statement is also well understood. A vision statement should answer the question, “what do we wish to become?” It should be inspirational, it should stretch people, and it should give direction and form to the future plans of the organization.

But there is a third member of the planning triumvirate which gets considerably less attention – the values statement.

What does a values statement do for an organization?  Simply put, values describe how people in the organization should behave.  Value statements answer the question, “How do we go about our work?”  Values are the qualities, characteristics, and behaviors that the organization holds in high regard.

Below are examples of value statements that I’ve found in advancement shops:

  • Integrity – a candid and caring disposition in all interactions;
  • Quality – doing all we do well;
  • Humor – taking our work seriously, but ourselves less so;
  • Stewardship – efficiency and appropriateness in the use of gift income;
  • Innovation – creatively responding to all opportunities;
  • Relationships – evidencing a concern for others consistently.

Most would agree that having such behavioral guideposts is important.  But, with mission and vision tied so closely to the strategic planning process (and to campaign case statements designed to attract donor dollars), value statements have garnered less attention – similar to the proverbial third wheel.  In fact, many organizations haven’t created value statements at all.

Regardless of whether your organization has a value statement, let me strongly encourage you, as an advancement leader, to create and utilize a values statement with your team.  Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. A statement of values helps to create a fun, positive place to work. Don’t just create a statement of values and then let it collect dust.  Have fun with them and find ways to highlight them so that they can drive behavior and culture.  For instance, create annual “value awards” – we had the “Devy’s” (for “Development”) at one place I worked which were a fun way to reward team members who did something which typified our values.
  2. Regularly reflecting on a statement of values provides us with opportunities to see the best in others.  To make sure that our team regularly reflected on our values, I would start our annual planning sessions with time to reflect on the values themselves and to write down examples of how, over the past year, someone on the team had been an exemplar of the values.
  3. A statement of values helps us attract and retain the best possible team members.  By operating with a set of living values, you will ensure that your team will be attractive place for future employees.  People are naturally drawn to positive people and cultures.  And when you interview new employee prospects, show them the values and ask for their feedback.

While many donors express an interest in mission and vision, don’t forget that another important constituency – your staff – are interested in your values.  And assembling a strong and positive team is the first and most important step to doing great advancement work for your organization.



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