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JCF Blog

Danger: Writing by Committee in Progress

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 11/20/2014

by Michael Johnston, President & CEO

I’ve got a great idea.  Let’s revisit our organizational mission and vision statements!  It will be loads of fun and will make a real difference in our work.  Who’s with me?  (Silence).  Anyone?  (Crickets).  Hello, is anyone there? 

If you’ve ever gone through a mission and vision statement exercise for a non-profit organization or, worse yet, spent a half day in a consultant facilitated mission/vision brainstorming session, you’ve probably wished for that time back.  Undoubtedly you were asked to “think outside the box,” consider “paradigm shifts” or other such management consulting clichés.  It’s enough to make your head hurt.

There is no question that if done correctly building a vision or mission statement is complicated.  Finding alignment on the direction of the organization and explaining it simply is no easy matter.  There is real risk that you will uncover a lack of agreement on the direction of the organization or that writing by committee will lead you to a statement that is muddled and meaningless.

One might ask, if it’s so complicated why do it at all? 

For us, it became important because of the new 5-year strategic plan we adopted.  The plan carves out a bold, and in some ways new, pathway to the future, including a new emphasis on building the capacity of our partner agencies and synagogues, and a bold call for increasing assets under management to $250 million within 10 years.  

Despite my trepidation about the process, there was remarkable alignment around the most important components of the Foundation’s new strategy and the best way to communicate them.  Because the Foundation’s mission is broad and bold, it would be easy to fall into the trap of trying to describe it all in a mission statement.  Ultimately, though,  the group embraced the power of brevity and proposed what I believe to be a remarkably powerful set of statements. 

The new mission statement – intended to explain our purpose as an organization – says: 

The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford unlocks the transformative power of individual and collective philanthropy to solve problems, strengthen community organizations, and provide permanent support for our Jewish community.  

Both the idea of philanthropy as a problem solving tool and the concept of strengthening community organizations are new – not inconsistent with our past, but new because of their emphasis.  In particular, the idea of strengthening community organizations reflects a new commitment to build the infrastructure of the institutions that represent who we are as a community.

The vision statement is even more starkly different.  It says in three simple words everything that we believe in and hope for: 

Jewish.  Community.  Forever.  

Perhaps that seems too simple to you, but to me it’s very powerful.  Our focus is on our faith, on the idea that community is essential, and that our endowment is designed to assure that we have the resources to support our Jewish community in perpetuity.

Does this speak to you?  Let us know.

 

 

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Elliott Tertes
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This is visionary, concise and powerful!
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