A handy ‘cut-out and keep’ guide to Vision, Mission and Values

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs.  This is the second blog in his series – more coming soon!  This series – tackling vision, mission and values.  

Your ‘Cut-out and Keep’ guide to charity Vision, Mission and Values (or VMV)

Even seasoned charity professionals can get into a pickle trying to explain the difference between their Vision and Mission statements. Get trustees involved in the discussion and add in Values and Ethos statements and it won’t be long before half the room is tied in knots and the other half is running for the door. But help is at hand!

Here is a short summary of useful definitions, you can cut-out and keep for the next time someone (maybe you) gets into a muddle.

Vision Statement 

A compelling and inspiring description of the difference the organisation will make, e.g. ‘A world in which every child has access to clean water’. This is about your charity’s aspirations and what it hopes to achieve in the longer term; maybe many years into the future. It should infuse the organisation with a sense of purposeful action and motivate others to commit their support.

In the corporate world, vision statements have a bad press – perhaps justifiably. Marketing teams for vacuum cleaners or toothpaste companies may find themselves desperately trying to make the every-day and banal into a ‘noble cause’. As a result, they often create meaningless, glib or even cynical phrases. But in the third sector, a vision for a changed world is what we are all about. So, we don’t need to gild the lily. You can be highly ambitious in your statement, so long as the need you aim to address is a genuine one. Just in case it is not already clear to you, your vision statement is NOT a vision for your organisation (“Operating nationwide by 2020”), but for the change you wish to effect in the outside world.

Mission Statement (or Purpose)

This is a declaration of the organisation’s core purpose. A mission statement answers the question, “why do we exist?”. It may sketch out the core activities you are committed to, for the foreseeable future, but shouldn’t try to be comprehensive or too rigid. However, to avoid too much abstraction, it helps to illustrate with practical examples of what you do. Your vision may change very little over time, but your mission may well need to adapt to account for changing needs, circumstances and opportunities.

Still not clear on the difference between ‘vision’ and mission’?  Try putting ‘ary’ on the end of each. A ‘visionary’ looks to the future and imagines what could be possible. A ‘missionary’ is someone who carried out the work to bring the vision into reality.

Values

These explain what we stand for and believe in. Principles, ideals and characteristics that define the culture, standards and aspirations of the organisation. e.g. ‘Professionalism’, ‘Ensuring Fairness’, ‘Working in Partnership’ or ‘Advancing Knowledge’, backed-up by the beliefs that underpin them and perhaps examples of how they will be lived out, both internally and externally.

It’s hard to be original, but avoid single words like ‘Passion’ or ‘Inspiring’ unless you can define them and make them specific. In reality, no one value will be unique to your charity. Your values ‘fingerprint’ comes from how you combine and define them.Values come from the beliefs held by leaders and founders, which are then adopted corporately.

A clearer expression of those beliefs might sometimes be set out in an Ethos statement; particularly in the case of faith-based charities.

Please don’t plaster your values statements on huge bill boards around the office. If you do, that is a sure sign they have made no impact and never will. Rather, they are for the more subtle processes of staff induction and appraisals and to help to inform your decision making.

It should be a sober thought that the true values of your organisation are those actually practised and modelled by the most senior members.

Changing, updating or adapting your Vision, Mission and Values (or Ethos) statements

If having looked at your vision, mission and values (or ethos) statements you feel that they are not up to the job, then commit to changing them. Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

• DON’T make the error of failing to check back to your charitable objects to see what, legally speaking, you are limited to doing.
• DO have a frank and open debate (trustees and executive together) about the strengths and weaknesses of your current statements and new needs.
• DON’T try to write them ‘by committee’, better to assign the job to a proper ‘word-smith’ in the team. Further feedback can then be taken.
• DO involve staff and volunteers, in test-driving prototype statements, but don’t try to make it a democratic process.
• DON’T use 20 words when 10 will do. In fact, every word has to be able to justify its space.
• DO use the most accessible language you can without ‘dumbing down’. If the statements need further explanation, then you’ve failed.

Tackling miss-matches and gaining consensus

It often helps to have an objective voice in the room, when tackling these sometimes thorny and emotionally loaded topics. I am biased of course, but I would recommend gaining the support of a seasoned consultant to help facilitate this process, to make it as pain-free and productive as possible.

Revising your ‘foundational statements’ should be much more than a cosmetic or marketing exercise. It can be the catalyst for re-invigorating your charity and super-charging your business plan.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Advice for a new Fundraising Director

Advice to a newly-minted Fundraising Director

Philp R B&W

 

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. 

 

 

Becoming the Fundraising Director of a national charity was a goal I set myself quite early in my career.

Once I attained this ‘lofty’ position, whilst my fundraising skills were well honed, the learning curve suddenly steepened. As the manager of a large department and a key member of the wider leadership team, new skills had to be learnt quickly and some old habits broken.

Whilst I suspect some things in life have to be learned through personal experiences (the hard way) there is room to benefit from the experience and mistakes of others.

My top 10 tips for new Directors of Fundraising

 

 1. Fully embrace your place at the ‘top table’ 

Don’t let misdirected humility and self-deprecation undermine your position of leadership. That’s no good for anyone. You’ve earned this, so don’t be intimidated. Your new peers may have more years experience, but never see yourself or operate as a ‘junior director’. Look into ‘imposter syndrome’ if this tip resonates. Fully play the role you’ve been given. Remember, you are always being watched! Your conduct and standards of behaviour can have enormous effects (positive or negative) on your team and the credibility of the organisation.

2. Consistently sell a vision for your department

Leave no-one on your team in doubt as to what standards are expected, both personal and professional. Deal with transgressions swiftly and consistently. Use a number of methods and situations to explain what success looks like. Be prepared to repeat yourself – often.

3. Really know you numbers (financials, fundraising targets, historical data etc)

There is often a lot of this to remember, so keep a summary with you at all times. Refer to it frequently, until the numbers are imprinted on your mind. Easy recall will enhance your authority within your team and across your peer group.

4. Trust your team of experts

You don’t have to be the guru of every fundraising technique. Hire the very best people you can afford, trust them to get on with their work, but remember you are entitled to question them and expect evidence for the conclusions they come to. Delegate the tasks, but never delegate responsibility for the outcome.

5. Manage upwards effectively

For starters, do follow the old adage of “under-promise and over-deliver”. But more than this, really get to the bottom of what your CEO deems is most important, beyond the obvious of hitting income targets. You need to influence the rules of the game. What could be (objectively speaking) a great year for your department, will not be seen as such if there is a mismatch between goals agreed at the star of the year and those achieved. Don’t allow yourself to be set up for failure by goals or targets that are not realistic and not suitably resourced.

6. Fight for investment in fundraising

Do your homework; build compelling evidence for your arguments. Repurpose those same powers of persuasion you use when inspiring donors to invest. Stand up against those that would starve fundraising, by a misplaced devotion to reducing all ‘overheads’ at all costs. See Dan Pallotta’s excellent TED talk on the subject for encouragement.

7. Use your political savvy

Understanding the political power dynamics within the trustee board is essential (See the last point). You can either be buffeted by them or harness them to achieve your goals and what is in the interests of the charity’s beneficiaries (mutually inclusive I would hope!). The key to this is getting to know each trustee personally to understand what motivates them. It may not be what you expect, or actually what they say it is. You’ll need to discern this yourself, partly based on their actions.

8. Be an internal ambassador for fundraising

Don’t expect other departments to appreciate or even understand what your team does. Get out there and share the good news of how fundraisers support them in achieving their aims. Demand equal professional respect between your team and those working directly with beneficiates. Each needs the other.

 9. Take action now for 2026

It is tempting to focus almost exclusively on this year’s needs. Be brave enough to lobby for the long view. What will the person in your chair in 10 years time be pleased you set in motion? A community fundraising programme, a robust legacy marketing cycle, a management training programme?

10. Get a mentor or coach

You may now be the most experienced fundraising practitioner within your charity. So if you haven’t done so already in your career, you’ll need to look outside to find the people to learn from, challenge you and enable you to reach higher.

11.  Relax and enjoy yourself!

I said 10 tips, but really there are 11 and this is important.  You’ve got one of the best jobs out there, one in which you can have an enormous impact on an important social issue, with people that share your passion.

 My recommendations for further reading:

• ‘How to Lead’ and ‘How to Manage’ two volumes by Jo Owen (pub. Prentice Hall). You’ll never look at management and leadership the same way again. Very practical, very clever, ideal for ongoing reference.

• ‘Four obsessions extraordinary executive’ by Patrick Lencioni (pub. John Wiley & Sons). I fully recommend working through Lencioni’s full works.

‘The Porcupine Principle’ by Jonathan Farnhill (pub. DCS) – Equally insightful and entertaining. Ideal to share with new recruits to fundraising.

Purple Vision and Fundraising

Purple Vision can help with fundraising requirements across the spectrum of technical, people-related and strategic.  Our services include:

We can help with full strategic reviews of your entire fundraising operation, or help you to focus on a key area you’re keen to develop.  We’ve been fundraising consultants since 2003, and our fundraising people are committed and passionate about supporting non profits to grow and achieve their full potential.

To find out more about fundraising services, call Keith Collins – Customer Solutions Director – via 0845 458 0250 or use our online contact form.

Building Journeys

I spoke at CHASE 2016 (#CHASE2016London if you want to check the twitter action) today, and included a template for starting to build journeys.

For those at the session it’s linked here so you can open it as a PDF.

Journey Toolkit -Build a Journey

More explanation to follow shortly for those of you that weren’t in the audience and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about!