Exercises to Use
Fortunately, there are a number of exercises to help groups develop their mission statements. The general ideas and theoretical background are necessary for everyone involved in crafting a mission statement, but you also need to do the work. The exercises can take place during board retreats, or they can be part of your regularly scheduled meetings. In addition to helping the organization develop a much-needed document, the exercises can be a lot of fun, so approach them in that spirit.
The Sticky Dot Exercise
This exercise requires the following:
One person to act as the writer
A package of colored sticky dots with equal numbers of three colors: green, yellow, red
In this exercise, the butcher paper is hung on an easel in the front of the room and the writer stands beside the easel. Encourage everyone in the room to call out what they think the real mission of the organization is (or should be!).
There is no right or wrong suggestion. Ideas can be expected or outlandish; they all need to be written on the butcher paper as clearly as possible in big letters. Remember, there is no criticism, even if a suggestion sounds ridiculous.
Consider inviting an outside facilitator who is familiar with nonprofit boards to assist in whatever exercises you decide to use. An outsider will not have emotional ties to the group and will be able to lead the exercises in an unbiased manner.
This exercise has a secondary benefit of providing much-needed humor and opportunities for camaraderie. Some of the suggestions may be silly, but they will often be an understood silliness that allows everyone participating to have a laugh and bond just a little bit more.
After a predetermined time, the writer calls for final suggestions and closes this part of the exercise. It is a good time to take a break and encourage everyone to walk around and look at the suggestions. See which ones make the most sense or reflect each individual's ideas about the organization's true mission.
Now, distribute the sticky dots. Everyone should have an equal assortment of colors. Place the green dots by ideas that individuals think are appropriate. Place the yellow dots near ideas that are neutral, and the red dots next to suggestions that individuals cannot support. It does not matter who put what colored dot by which suggestion.
At the close of this part of the exercise, the colored sticky dots will clearly tell which elements the group thinks are important enough to include in the mission statement. These suggestions or statements will give the group a clearer understanding of their mission and will find their way into the mission statement.
The Round-Robin Table Exercise
An individual who is not directly involved in the organization but who is familiar with developing nonprofit mission statements is the best facilitator for this exercise. Attendees are placed into small groups, ideally at small tables that allow them to sit and have room to write.
Each group compiles a list of what they think the organization represents, information that accurately describes the work of the group. After a set period, a representative from each table visits the other tables to glean ideas from those groups and take them back to his or her group. Allow plenty of time for the representatives of the different tables to understand the ideas as they are stated as well as any impressions or nuances.
The original tables or groups then incorporate their original list of important elements with the other groups' ideas. The purpose of this exercise is to bring out as many ideas as possible in a nonthreatening environment.
Moving around the room and interacting with different people is the secret to these exercises, which are merely different ways to express similar ideas. One table's discussions may have taken a completely different direction, which will add to the richness of the final document.
After this portion of the exercise, each group reads its final results. With the help of the facilitator, the ideas are merged into a list of elements. This list can be used to draft a rough document, which is then edited and prepared for the board of directors for eventual adoption. Then it will become part of the group's constantly evolving record.