This is an excerpt from Purpose Driven Campaigning, available to download in full from the Commons. The resource is based on Pastor Rick Warren’s bestselling book The Purpose Driven Church.
The book’s core premise is that you must ensure your organisation (and every department, budget sheet and staff member in it) is driven to achieve the core purpose of the organisation/ movement. Sounds easy and self-explanatory, right? Yes, but it’s harder to implement than you think. Too many nonprofits are being pulled in so many different directions that they aren’t really kicking goals in their core purpose any more; and some can’t even remember what that purpose was in the first place!
The importance of purpose
Nothing precedes purpose. The starting point for every organisation or movement should be the question ‘Why do we exist’?
If you serve in an existing organisation that has plateaued, is declining or is simply discouraged your most important task is to redefine your purpose.
If the leadership can’t even agree on why the organisation exists, conflict and disagreement on everything else is inevitable.
A clear purpose builds morale.
A clear purpose not only defines what we do, it defines what we do not do. Once your purpose is set, decision making becomes far easier and less frustrating.
There is no correlation between the size and the strength of your organisation. An organisation can be big and strong, or big and flabby. Big is not necessarily better – better is better.
A clear purpose attracts cooperation – people want to join an organisation that knows where it is going. When an organisation clearly communicates its destination, people are eager to get onboard.
If you want your members to get excited about the organisation, actively support it, and generously give to it, you must vividly explain up front exactly where the organisation is heading.
Clearly explain your strategy and structure- this will keep people from joining the membership with false assumptions. Explaining your organisation’s purposes to people before they join will not only reduce conflict and disappointment in your organisation, it will also help some people realise they should join another organisation because of philosophy or taste.
This is especially important when going through change – or when recruiting people who have been part of other organisations.
Focused light has tremendous power. Diffused light has no power and all. Like a laser beam, the more focused your organisation becomes, the more impact it will have on society.
Don’t fall for the trap of ‘majoring in the minors’. This is when your organisation becomes distracted by good, but less important agendas, crusades and purposes. The energy of the organisation is diffused and then dissipated; the power is lost.
Most organisations try to do too much – dabble in forty different things and miss being good at any of them.
The older an organisation gets, the truer this becomes – programs and events continue to be added to the agenda without ever cutting anything out.
The question to ask is ‘Would we begin this today if we were not already doing it?’
Restate purpose at least monthly
It is amazing how quickly human beings – and organisations – lose their sense of purpose. Vision and purpose must be restarted every twenty-six days to keep the organisation moving in the right direction.
This is the foremost responsibility of leadership – if you fail to communicate your statement of purpose to your members you may as well not have one.
The vision of any organisation always fades with time unless it is reinforced. This is because people become distracted by other things. By continually fanning the figure of your purposes you can overcome the tendency of your organisation to become complacent or discouraged.
Ways to communicate vision and purpose
- ‘History has proven that a simple slogan, repeatedly shared with conviction, can motivate people to do things they would normally never do’
- Use stories to dramatise the purpose of your organisation.
- Share actual testimonials or letters from real people.
- Organisational legends (historical within the org).
- Always give practical clear, concrete action steps that explain exactly how your organisation intends to fulfill its purpose. Offer a detailed plan for implementing your purpose.
- Remember nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. When a vision is vague it holds no attraction. The more specific your organisation’s vision is, the more it will grab attention and attract a commitment. The most specific way to communicate the purpose is to apply it personally to how each member lives.
- Member at the centre of the story.
Be purpose/mission driven. Don’t be driven by:
- The seven last words of an organisation are: ‘We’ve never done it that way before’.
- Where the agenda is determined more by the background, needs and insecurities of the leader.
- Finances must never be the controlling issue.
- Rick Warren notes that many churches are driven by faith in their early years and by finances in later years. This is applicable to non profits!
- Often the program-driven organisation’s goal subtly shifts from developing people to just filling positions. If results from a program diminish, the people blame themselves for not working hard enough. No one ever questions if a program still works.
- The tail ends up wagging the dog
- Meetings! What is the purpose behind them all?
- Attendance becomes the sole measurement of success.
- Should be seeker (new recruit) sensitive, but not seeker driven – just like Labor lost its traditional base because it was too focused on recruiting potential new voters in Western Sydney.
Considering whether you are really achieving your mission
Are you being faithful to your mission if you insist on communicating in an outdated style? Are you being faithful to your mission if you insist on doing things in a way that is comfortable for you even though it doesn’t produce any results?
We must be willing to say with unreserved commitment, ‘We’ll do whatever it takes to reach people’.
Apply purpose principles throughout the organisation
- A purpose driven organisation must rigorously apply its purposes to every part of the organisation – programming, scheduling, budgeting, staffing.
- When thinking about finances, people give to vision.
- Base building
- Organisational effectiveness
- Organisational innovation
- Organising - Community
- Organising - Models
- Team building
- Volunteers - Management