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 items:
One person to act as the writer
A package of colored sticky dots
You should have equal numbers of three colors of dots — let's say, green, yellow, and red. In this exercise, encourage everyone in the room to call out what they think the real mission of the organization is (or should be!).
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.
There are no right or wrong suggestions. 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.
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.
The next part of this exercise involves the distribution of those sticky dots. Everyone should have an equal assortment of colors. The green dots are to be placed by ideas that individuals think are appropriate. Yellow dots are placed near ideas that are neutral, and red dots are placed next to suggestions that individuals cannot support. Do not record who put what colored dot by which suggestion.
At the close of this part of the exercise, the colored sticky dots will tell a clear story. You'll be able to tell what the group thinks are the important elements of the organization that should be included 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
This exercise is best facilitated by someone who is not directly involved in the organization but who is very familiar with developing nonprofit mission statements. This exercise requires everyone to break into small groups, ideally at small tables that allow people to sit and have room to write.
Each group needs to compile a list of what they think the organization represents, information that belongs in a mission statement to describe accurately the work of the group. After a set period, a representative from each table visits other tables to glean ideas from those groups and take them back to their 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 gone in 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 should be edited and prepared for the board of directors for eventual adoption. Then it will become part of the group's constantly evolving record.