Mini-Mission Makeover: Volunteer Center of Morgan County

Volunteer Center of Morgan County, Mission Statements, jargon, language, messagingThis post is part of our Mini-Mission Makeover series.  If you want input on your Mission Statement, submit it on Claxon’s Facebook page. THANK YOU to the wonderful people at The Volunteer Center of Morgan County for being brave enough to have your Mission Statement made over!

There’s a whole lot of mobilizing going on in nonprofit Mission Statements.  To wit, this Mission Statement submitted by Melissa Hill Dees of The Volunteer Center of Morgan County in Decatur, Alabama:

“The Volunteer Center of Morgan County, Inc. mobilizes people and resources to address the issues that are important to the community and strengthens the capacity of local organizations to meet community needs through volunteerism.”

I’m not saying this happened at the Volunteer Center of Morgan County, bu I can’t tell you the number of meetings I’ve sat in where a group focused on volunteerism is working away on their Mission and Vision Statements and–lo and behold–the heavens part and someone shouts all excited like, “We mobilize! That’s what we do! Why yes!” And everyone nods and smiles and exclaims, “Why yes, yes we do mobilize.” And everyone is very pleased because mobilized is such an action-oriented word and that feels neat because action is good. So they high-five each other and head to the pub for a post-Mission Statement-writing pint.

Mega-buzz kill moment: Mobilize has issues.

Here’s the problem with ‘mobilize’. It has very specific mind-share for English speaking North Americans. We mobilize forces or troops. Let me stop you before you go making the case for the fact that you’re mobilizing forces of volunteers–just because you can make the case for it doesn’t mean you should.

When you co-opt a word that has a strong association with another market segment–in this case military forces vs. volunteers–you’re fighting an uphill battle. Uphill battles are expensive because they take lots of resources to fight. If our brains expect a sentence to be finished in a certain way, it gives us a brain cramp when they finish differently. Brain cramps are bad when it comes to getting people involved in your work. (#BrainCrampsBad)

The other thing with ‘mobilize’ is that it doesn’t sound very appealing. Hard to imagine Pat the Potential Volunteer sitting himself down and saying, “Jinkies, I wish someone would mobilize me.” Sounds painful. Something to run away from rather than toward.

So that covers the issues with mobilize.

Another issue with the Volunteer Center of Morgan County’s Mission Statement is that it’s try to do too much for one sentence–a very, very, very common state of affairs for all Mission Statements. If you’re going to make your Mission Statement something that those outside your organization find compelling, you have to prioritize and simplify. 

I would ask the fine folks at the Volunteer Center of Morgan County the same question I asked when presenting at the Hands-On Network Affiliate Meeting: What’s the one thing that you fundamentally want to be known for?

Depending on the answer to the question above, here would be some options for the Volunteer Center of Morgan County to play around with:

We bring people together who want to make our community an even better place to live.

We strengthen local nonprofits by putting volunteers to work.

We create partnerships between volunteers and nonprofits to tackle issues that matter to our community.

Any other thoughts or suggestions for Melissa and the very wonderful and hard-working folks at The Volunteer Center of Morgan County?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?