Organisations that pass these three tests can often secure the resources they need to get the best staff, the respect of others, and more money. Organisations that fail one or more of the tests usually have problems in these areas.
First, take the pub test. Someone from your organisation is in the pub with one of their mates. The mate asks what your organisation does. Can your colleague in the pub explain the mission of your organisation in a sentence or two and with pride? Does the mate, piqued by curiosity, ask more questions, or go glassy-eyed and change the subject?
Missions are meant to motivate. If your colleague can articulate your mission with pride, they are probably motivated and will inspire others to join or volunteer for your organisation. And they might even be able to ask for money.
The mission of the Organisation for Refuge, Asylum and Migration is to advocate for people fleeing sexual or gender based violence. The mission is that simple. Its advocacy stretches from legal advice for individuals, to speaking out publicly to governments and international bodies. It helps people trying to escape from honour killings or homophobic attacks, for example, in Iran. Check it out on the web at ORAM International if you are interested.
Next, take the radio test. Imagine that you are driving somewhere in ten years. The news comes on the radio, and says “And now for some good news. A report just out today says that over the past ten years something has improved. One organisation that has worked hard for this is your organisation.”
You hear the report and smile to yourself. Your team and you are recognised for a decade of hard work and achievement.
What was that something?
Goals drive decisions. They focus organisations on the most valuable actions out of the range that could fall under the inspiring mission. If the something for your organisation is clear and simple, it will help your colleagues in the front line make decisions day to day, and it will make it easier to secure resources. Volunteers know what counts, and that their time has made a difference. Funders may even find you, if they share your goals.
If your goal can fit into a simple radio report, then it’s going to be useful for insiders and outsiders alike. If your goals are too complicated to be explained in a sentence or two, then they will not drive decisions on the front line or among funders.
Organisations without clear goals, even if they have an inspiring mission, can scatter their energy in all directions without actually making progress in any direction.
Khulisa Crime Prevention Initiative has a mission to contribute to building a healthy and crime-free South Africa. Its main goal is to reduce recidivism among offenders. It works with people in prison and after they leave to help them get back on their feet, and, most importantly, to not offend again.
In a country where about 80 per cent of ex-convicts re-offend, about 80 per cent of Khulisa graduates do not offend again. As Khulisa scales, it has more impact. If, in ten years time, the news in South Africa is of lower crime due a dramatic fall in prison recidivism, Khulisa will have played an important part. If you are interested, check out Khulisa Services.
Finally, take the grandmother test. Imagine you are walking down the street on a windy day and you see your grandmother. You’re delighted to see each other. She asks your news, and you tell her about your organisation’s mission and goal.
She’s impressed and curious to know more. She asks how your organisation will meet this inspiring mission and achieve its ambitious goal. Can you explain the strategy simply and clearly to an intelligent, interested, but uninformed, listener? Remember, it’s a windy day. If it’s not clear, grandma will ask you to speak up. If you are too windy, she will get cold while you ramble.
Strategies tell organisations how to get from where they are to where they want to be. They tell us what not to do. If we cannot explain strategies clearly, we probably do not have clear strategies. If our strategies are not clear, our organisations may not understand them, let alone execute them. We’re not likely to achieve our goals or mission.
Inspire Foundation has a mission to help millions of young people lead happier lives. Its goal is to reduce the rate of youth suicide. ReachOut, its program in Australia has been associated with an impressive decline in youth suicide.
ReachOut works by bringing together in one familiar place, the internet, the information, support and resources for young people going through tough times.
With professional information and peer stories it provides help, and encourages users to find more help. It shows how to cope with tough times, and that tough times do not have to mean a tough life.
Testing, testing, testing
How would your organisation fare with the three tests?
If you are not sure, try the pub test with a mate, say the radio news out loud next time you drive, or tell your grandmother about your strategy. If you don’t like what they say, you can get some advice on how to improve your mission, goal and strategy. Start with your mate in the pub, and think about inviting granny along too!