The whys and hows of museum mission statements

Oh but, we hear you cry, is a mission statement really necessary for my organisation?
In small projects, the idea of a mission statement often doesn’t rear its head until we need one for some specific purpose. Perhaps we need it for a funding application or for museum accreditation. But developing a mission statement for your organisation can be so much more than a box-ticking exercise.

The process of getting everyone’s input and putting something down on paper can really help us clarify what our organisation is about and what it is we are trying to achieve, how we do it and for whom. It shows the world that we take what we do seriously and implies that they should take us seriously too. And, really importantly, it ensures everyone is ‘singing from the same hymn-sheet’ in terms of what you are trying to deliver to your customer or visitor.

Who should get involved?

It’s not unusual for members of the same organisation to discover they weren’t, as they thought, all banded together on the same mission, but in fact had different goals in mind, or different ideas about how to get there. That’s why it’s important to gather the views of people from all over your organisation.

You can talk to your Board, your management and staff, your volunteers, and the people you serve to see what they think your organisation is all about. These are your stakeholders, and you’ll be amazed at the diverse and surprising opinions they share with you.

Warning: gathering this kind of feedback can quickly get unwieldy and overwhelming if you are not organised (watch out for our upcoming blogpost about gathering stakeholder input). Use an application like Microsoft Excel to keep a list of the people you talk to along with their contact details.

Ask your stakeholders what they believe to be your organisations purpose and what your mission should be. What are you doing versus what should you be doing? Who are you serving and who should you be serving? You’ll come up with your own questions but keep them simple and few. Note down keywords and important phrases to consider later when you are drafting your mission statement.

What should our mission look like at the end?

Imagine all the info you gathered going into the top of a funnel. What comes out at the bottom is a 1 to 3 sentence statement which describes what your organisation does, how and for whom. This statement will guide your future activities from strategy development to programming to visitor care.

To help you along a bit further, we’re put together a free downloadable guide available soon. Why not sign up to our blog so you don’t miss it?  And when you get that done, you might want to move on to drafting your vision statement – see our blog post entitled Digging Deeper – How to write a vision statement…