We recently walked into a meeting with a new team and were floored by the positivity radiating through the conference room. It was obvious this group had a special bond and were giving us the feels in a good way.
After the meeting, I pulled the president aside and inquired about the upbeat nature of their employees. She smiled and pulled a laminated card from her cell phone case. What was on the card? Her organization’s values.
She told us every member of her team carried the values close, so whenever there was a disagreement, a question regarding how to spend their budget, or a decision over what kind of program and curricula to design, they could easily reference the organization’s values and come to a decision quickly and in tandem.
Now, let’s digress.
Hopefully, you already have a unique mission and vision statement for your organization. But it’s going to be equally important to now go back to the beginning. If you missed our last blog, we used the analogy of your mission being your framework and your vision being your blueprint. To take this one step further, your value is the quality of the materials you use for construction. Do you cut corners for ease or to save the expense?
Once you identify the undercurrent running beneath your mission and vision, you will have an easier time navigating the vastness of your journey.
Values communicate your authenticity and uniqueness.
Isn’t everyone always asking you, what’s your USP? How do you define your UVP?
Articulating your unique selling or unique value proposition becomes easier once you know why your feet hit the floor early in the morning and what keeps you up late.
When most people think of their organization, they think about the how:
HOW will we serve women fighting breast cancer?
HOW will we use gardens to teach STEM education?
HOW will we use poetry to get kids to put down their phones and learn about themselves and the world around them?
Because you exist to offer programs or products, it’s easy to think programmatically or through a lens of profitability. However, the most impactful organizations know it’s pivotal to identify and highlight not only what but also why they sell plus size wedding dresses to brides or start food co-ops.
Say part of your service to women fighting breast cancer is connecting them to another woman who has experienced what they are going through to provide support and guidance. But eventually, you find it difficult to find enough volunteers who have been through the experience. What then? Do you begin making connections to women who have not experienced breast cancer? Would another, similar experience create the same connection? Or do you limit the number of women you support based on the volunteers you have? It all depends on the value you place on that specific connection. So you need to lay out your values before you get there.
Let’s hear the experts weigh in…
Values impact the impact you’re creating. Here are a few examples of organizations who give some credit for their success toward values statements:
When asked what he’d do differently if he could start his company all over again, Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh said, “I would actually come up with our values from day one. We didn’t always have values. It wasn’t until about five years into it that we rolled out our values.”
If the CEO of a $1.2 billion company says this is the ONE thing he would do differently, maybe it would behoove us all to examine his experience.
In a no-frills approach, America’s Charities clearly spells out their core values, services, mission, vision, and summary on their website. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of nonprofits currently sharing their values – which seems counterproductive to their goal of pulling our emotional strings. Sure, all nonprofits know what they do, but understanding why they do this work (and being able to articulate this with their audience) will speak louder.
When my partner and I were shopping for a new mattress recently, we didn’t expect to get goosebumps over Lessa’s social impact initiative. Their website takes it’s time unfolding stories, videos, and images of the communities they serve. Needless to say, we bought the mattress and sleep better knowing we’re supporting values that reflect ours.
Share this — not that.
We challenge you to gather your team and have a candid discussion over your individual and team values.
Then craft your organization’s value, mission, and vision statements and immediately add these heartfelt statements to your elevator pitch, website, and share them on social media. Share less of your what and more of your why. This will help you attract more of your kind – people who serve their communities or shop for products like you do.
Download our value statement guide and dive deeply into yourself. In this workbook, you’ll find simple exercises that will help you pinpoint and tap into the things you value most.
Or… there’s another (funner!) way to identify your values.
One of our values at Prodigy & Co. is freedom. Most entrepreneurs will agree this is their favorite quality of owning their own business. If having the freedom to bounce ideas around in a creative space without deadlines and judgment (or the pressure to craft those tricky statements on your own) is what you are looking for—we have you covered.
One of our specialties is helping organizations identify and communicate their heart and passion into an organizational identity document. We often find people need outside perspective but don’t know where to turn to find experts to help them navigate these introspective exercises.
Let’s work together to create an identity document that can be shared with your team, board, volunteers, beneficiaries, and anyone else who wants a peek inside the soul of your work. It will make sure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.