Developing the mission of your communications team
If you look at communications teams across a number of nonprofits, the roles and responsibilities vary widely. Some teams are primarily responsible for fundraising, some maintain the brand, while others spend a lot of time writing and publishing mission-relevant content.
While there is no one-size-fits-all, universally accepted definition of the purpose of a marketing or communications team, it’s helpful to have clarity around the job of the department and how it can best support your organization.
Developing a mission statement for your communications team can do just that. This mission statement articulates the primary purpose of the team itself. In other words, what this department actually does.
Having a guiding mission statement gives everyone on your team a north star—a motivating purpose for their work that also helps to set strategy, clarify decision making and set priorities. All of your choices and decisions should act in service of the department’s mission.
It’s also a useful hiring tool for job applications and in interviews. When there is turnover within the organization, the statement acts as a constant that can live on, even as your team changes.
For Bat Conservation International, an organization conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems, developing a mission statement for their communications team came in handy at a time when they were assessing their communications capacity and department structure.
Their communications team now has a mission “to explode our base of support and make those people love us.” This positions communications as responsible for creating and building relationships—primarily with donors and potential donors.
Using this mission statement as a guide, Bat Conservation International restructured its communications team to add staff who focus on developing and sustaining relationships, and they updated their organizational chart and workflows to encourage close collaboration between communications and development.
To develop a mission statement for your department discuss a few questions together:
- How does communications support the overall organization—our mission, our vision, and our strategic plan?
- How does communications support various departments within the organization?
Craft a statement using the themes that surface in answers to the questions above. Encourage team members to keep the mission statement handy, even taped up on the wall or office door, and use it as a guide or reference for quarterly and yearly team planning meetings. Take a fresh look at your department’s mission statement each year, keeping in mind what’s coming up for your organization as a whole.
Whether your department is one person or many, a team mission statement sets the purpose for your work and is a helpful step in ensuring that your communications are as effective as possible in advancing your organization’s mission. This topic—the purpose of a communications team and its role in advancing your mission—is explored in more detail in Sarah Durham’s soon-to-be-released book. Keep an eye out for “The Nonprofit Communications Engine: A leader’s guide to managing mission-driven marketing and communications” for more.