If we don’t take the time to plan well, we can help more than we hurt.
To care for others well, you must research the problems you seek to solve thoroughly, build solutions with the help of stakeholders, and articulate your mission and vision statements. The Lord has entrusted each nonprofit and parachurch ministry with resources to promote justice, reconciliation, and restoration – stepping back to evaluate your mission, purpose, and structure help us steward these gifts to the best of our ability.
Before building another program or hiring another staff member, you should make sure your mission and vision statements are absolutely clear. If donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries are unsure of what you do (and why), they are unlikely to give their time or efforts to your cause. While vision and mission statements are very similar, it is important to understand their differences. These two statements will help you determine the core identity of your organization, what you want to do, and where you hope to go. When crafting these statements, input from your core team as well as community members is vital.
Your vision statement should be future-focused. To what end are you striving? What problem do you seek to eradicate? A well-written vision statement can rally a team around a common goal and fight potential mission drift as the organization matures. Most vision statements are between 8 and 12 words long and serve as a “North Star” to which leadership can look when making important program decisions.
Your mission statement should concisely summarize the problem you identified and the solution your team is putting into place to address it. It defines what the organization is, what it does, and who it serves. Most mission statements are used to quickly give potential donors other community members a sense of the unique role you play in the space and convey priorities to those inside and outside the organization.
Many entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders start programs or initiatives to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and fight racial injustice. However, organizations will only address symptoms if they fail to diagnose the root causes of the problems they seek to eliminate. While such “solutions” may seem to work in the short run, they can hinder long-term success in which the iniquity is truly eradicated. Taking time to understand the problem up front will help you to refine your approach, better invest your resources, and protect those you are trying to help from unnecessary harm.
The more specific you can be with the populations you seek to serve, the easier it will be to design a program or initiative that fundamentally improves their situation.
Part of this is determining what populations or individuals are suffering from the problem you have identified. Determining who you seek to help will help you better understand the unique needs of your beneficiaries and target your services or products more effectively. Your direct beneficiaries should be those “with whom you hope to gain as rapid an acceptance as possible at minimal cost” (p.21). These individuals or groups should strongly need relief from the problem, express willingness to adopt the solution, and see value in your approach. This population should also be positioned in a way that your solution would put them on a path to permanently eliminating the problem.
The more specific you can be with the populations you seek to serve, the easier it will be to design a program or initiative that fundamentally improves their situation. As the number of target populations grows, the solution will need to become more complex to address the unique needs and circumstances of each group. Care should be taken to ensure that your target audience is defined and narrow enough that your resources aren’t spread thin.