Mission Statements—Eight Words or Less or Forget It

By Carol Schadelbauer, May 22, 2013

PopTech via Flickr

What does your audience want to hear? That’s the first question we ask before we work with trainees on messaging, and with good reason: targeting your statements and messages to your audience is imperative. So, if your audience is a funder or donor, listen up. Kevin Starr’s article “The Eight-Word Mission Statement” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review just resurfaced in our email today. Dr. Starr is the managing director of the Mulago Foundation, which is focused on health, poverty, and conservation in the world’s poorest places. He writes:

“As investors in impact, we—the Mulago Foundation—don’t want to wade through a bunch of verbiage about “empowerment,” “capacity-building,” and “sustainability”—we want to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. We want to cut to the chase, and the tool that works for us is the eight-word mission statement. All we want is this:

A verb, a target population, and an outcome that implies something to measure—and we want in eight words or less.”

And then he gives a few examples from his global perspective:

Save kids’ lives in Uganda.

Rehabilitate coral reefs in the Western Pacific.

Prevent maternal-child transmission of HIV in Africa

“These statements tell us exactly what the organization has set out to accomplish. Once we’ve got it, we know whether they are working on something that fits our own mission, and we have a useful starting point for any subsequent conversations.”

Great advice. And if funders feel this way, you can bet the policymakers and general reporters will appreciate clear, impactful mission statements and messaging as well.

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