If you’ve worked with Mission Minded or read any of our training materials you know that we counsel nonprofit organizations that your values don’t (or shouldn’t) change over time.
Your values are lived and seen every day by those inside and outside your organization. Whether they are written down or not, what you truly value is apparent to anyone with a relationship to your mission and culture. So values can’t just be changed for marketing purposes or reshaped to be more appealing to donors. Your values are the most authentic part of your brand, and pretending your culture values something you actually don’t works against your ability to have deep and meaningful relationships with stakeholders.
So why did we just change our values at Mission Minded?
With our goal of being an ever more inclusive organization, we didn’t change our values, but we recognized the need to change how we express them. Two years ago when we embarked on our company’s diversity, equity and inclusion journey we learned that our values weren’t as inclusive as we thought they were. And we learned that good intentions would not be enough.
While we’ve been actively working on our inclusion practices for some time now, it simply hadn’t occurred to us to ensure that our internal strategy documents, including our BrandEquation, could be made even stronger.
As we looked at our values through a new lens, we saw some language that inadvertently set an exclusive, rather than inclusive, message.
We’re sharing the changes below as inspiration for your own work. Are your values, and other brand signals, written to signal inclusion and dignity for all? If not, this is a great time to re-think how you express them.
We tend to be a sunny bunch at Mission Minded. When you get to do what you love for work while making the world a better place that’s just what happens. So our value “stay positive” was intended to convey the optimism and positivity with which we approach our clients’ opportunities. And it served as a reminder that even when challenges arise, we should keep a professionally positive attitude in tone and solutions. That felt right to us.
But we learned over time that some members of our team felt that “stay positive” meant they couldn’t honestly and openly address challenges. Or worse, that they could never have a bad day or be in a bad mood. Those are reasons enough to express the stay positive idea in a better way. But we also realized that signaling to team members (existing and prospective) that being positive all the time was required, it might make folks who are quieter or more contemplative feel unwelcome. While we prize an atmosphere of positivity, we found a better way to signal the true action and mindset we value: Foster Optimism. We see the glass half full, choosing to find optimism, hope, and encouragement even when challenges arise. We assume positive intent with our clients, our team, and each other.
The second big change we made is to add an explicit inclusivity value: Invite Perspectives. We proudly made a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and also realized that if we really want to make clear to our team that we invite a diversity of points of view, and have a culture where disagreement or dissent is okay, in the name of Improving, Always (another of our values), we needed to explicitly name that as a value. Previously, we’d imbedded this idea idea into the narrative on another of our values, but calling it out on its own will help us all keep it top of mind
We seek diverse perspectives because they expand our worldview and enable us to skillfully serve a variety of clients. We appreciate that those varied influences make us more empathetic and stronger as a team. We create inclusive environments and invite dialogue and debate to advance ideas and understanding. Our “Invite Perspectives” value helps us codify this.
You can see that we didn’t change our values. We evolved the way we express them in order to make them more inspiring and accessible to all of us. We wish you success as you do the same.
Is your organization trying to refine how you express your values? Mission Minded can help! Reach out to us so that we can explore the possibilities for you.
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.
See all posts by Jennie Winton