#FACTOR C: Mission and Vision as Tools of Institutional Stakeholder Engagement

Home » #FACTOR C: Mission and Vision as Tools of Institutional Stakeholder Engagement

Starting with the basics for an effective growth and fundraising strategy

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Mission, vision, goals: the sustainable growth of an organization revolves around an integral approach to stakeholder engagement. See how.

This is the first talk in a series written by Irene Popoli who, within the FACTOR C column, will delve into the operational assumptions on which to build an effective and lasting integrated stakeholder engagement and fundraising strategy.

More than a few will have had to pass under the pits of an elevator pitch: one minute to express in a concise but complete, convincing but not exalted, concrete but aspirational way one’s idea, proposal, initiative.

This is a very Anglo-Saxon technique, in which it is assumed that the level of attention and the number of opportunities that are given are inversely proportional to the competition that is to be sustained: a somewhat cowboy, gun to the temple approach to putting pressure on the storyteller by trying to check whether they really have their idea 100 percent in focus, placing a performative filter from the outset that can skim the quality of the idea’s originator (rather than the idea itself) in form, before substance.

How many of us would actually be able to achieve that level of clarity and synthesis regarding any fact of our lives-even the smallest? Least of all, I imagine, in the case of a complex narrative, an emerging idea, a thought not yet formed.

And yet, this little rhetorical torture can be, if well received, an opportunity to observe from the inside, identifying priorities, orders of importance, more or less indispensable elements, and putting in order what needs to come immediately, clearly and incontrovertibly to the listener.

This practice, which is especially common in pitches where start-up ideas are presented (thus in an area that is inherently innovative, where the level of success is infinitesimal), can present an opportunity, if declined appropriately, even for organizations that already exist-often for a long, long time-and that, at the same time, increasingly need to reaffirm their institutional profile, to make it clear and shared internally and externally.

Tabella Missione Visione Coinvolgimento degli stakeholder

Mission and Vision: what cultural organizations don’t say-and why they should start.

The defining practice of identifying one’s mission and vision is not a rhetorical act, an exercise in style, an opportunity to have a nice motto to frame and then get on with one’s operational routine. On the contrary, the need, imposed by this process, to be able to synthesize, to reduce to essentials the priority aspects that define the reasons and constituent foundations of one’s organization is as difficult as it is strategically crucial.

Let’s see why.


1. Involves the entire organization

The definition of mission and vision can be an internal tool for sharing and participation of the team and all contributors to the activities. This has a twofold utility: on the one hand, it allows for verification of actual perceptions and expectations toward the organization, its nature and purposes (“What is it for you? What should/could it be?”); on the other hand, it activates a process of convergence and alignment of the different instances expressed toward a shared vision, triggering or reaffirming a sense of belonging and building a strong and clear corporate culture.

2. It is the starting and ending point of one’s strategy

In organizations that often have an articulated structure and multiple and heterogeneous areas of activity, having clearly identified the mission and vision of the organization allows for a means of final verification of the adequacy of the goals set for each area (and any resources allocated). In this way, it is in fact, always possible to do a “check-up” of the health of area/department/office/role objectives by going back to their incisiveness in pursuing the organizational vision. Because all stradetegies lead to the vision!


3. Provides the basic fundamentals for engaging stakeholders

(toward the audience of possible public and private institutional supporters, from a fundraising perspective)

In an increasingly competitive environment where the need to position oneself distinctively is now more vital than ever, having a strong institutional identity starts with being able to answer the questions “what do you do and why?”). In fact, in the process of engaging potential stakeholders supporters/funders/donors, the effectiveness and synthesis of expressing the social/institutional/cultural role one has chosen to assume, the reasons for this choice and the ways one has identified to pursue it is the prerequisite for being able to build the system of shared values that forms the basis every partnership.

4. It is a strategic communication tool to get the word out about the organization

(with respect to its final target market of service users)

Mission and especially vision, with its aspirational component, can be effective messages on which to build some communication tools. Providing the organization’s key words, in fact, can help coordinate between the institutional strategic goals and the directions and directives for the communication area, going so far as to define and strengthen the brand with which it presents itself and engages its target market segments.

WARNING. Mission and Vision are two distinct but often confused, overlapping, or actually misunderstood concepts. Below we will look at examples to understand how organizations of all types (not just cultural organizations) have managed to center (or not) these two definitions!

A few examples (effective and not…)

One of the most pointed and precise examples, in my opinion, of what it means to construct a mission and a vision is that of the Museum of the American Revolution: here, the difference, in terms of definition and role between mission and vision, is very clear. On the one hand, one clarifies the set of actions that are put in place by the museum to contribute, with respect to its endowment, to the community of reference; on the other, one inserts the ultimate vision, the ultimate ambition, the partly abstract aspiration, the “dream” toward which the organization is to be directed.

Another interesting example, at least in the spirit of trying to clarify what is meant by definitions, is that of Hancock’s Great North Museum, in which the operational aspect of the mission “we do this…” is linked with the final destination to which “so that…” is aspired.

A far less effective illustrious example, however, is that of the Van Gogh Museum, where the vision turns out to be a style statement, too vague and disconnected with the specific characteristics of the organization and its collection-applicable to any institution and for that very reason unable to distinguish it, to position it.

Thus, it is evident how a seemingly stylish operation can actually have a very important strategic and operational function for many areas of a cultural institution, primarily involving fundraising and governance but going so far as to involve product marketing and institutional communication as well.

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