Most nonprofit leaders would agree that vision statements are vital to healthy organizations. However, very few leaders have a clear understanding of how to harness the power of that vision. They might know how to craft a compelling vision, but they aren’t sure how to communicate it in a way that connects with their board, staff, donors, or volunteers.
What’s lacking is key direction to turn a vision into a compelling force for change.
What Nonprofit Leaders Can Learn about Vision from Two World Changers
Two powerful and well-known speeches from the 1960s can teach nonprofit leaders how a compelling vision is capable of grabbing our attention and sparking dramatic change in a surprisingly short amount of time:
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech led to long-stalled civil rights legislation.
- President John F. Kennedy’s speech to Congress inspired a nation with his vision to put a man on the moon.
7 Essential Elements for a Compelling Nonprofit Vision
These two nation-changing visions incorporated many of the seven elements that are crucial to crafting a compelling vision for your nonprofit:
1. Establish the need and the threat. The first thing President Kennedy shared in his speech was the threat of Soviet dominance in the Space Race. This resonated with a lot of Americans at the time. A vision needs to establish need and threat first.
2. Inspirational and transformational. A compelling vision causes people to want to stand up, applaud, and say, “I want to be a part of that.” Who can forget these stirring words from Dr. King: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
3. Simply stated, tangible outcomes. Anyone should be able to understand it in the moment. President Kennedy’s words were easy to follow: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
4. Defined time horizons. There needs to be accountability regarding when we will arrive at the destination. President Kennedy explained that America would have a man on the moon “by the end of the decade.”
5. Clearly articulated requirements. President Kennedy’s speech gave strict dollar amounts. He didn’t shy away from counting the cost.
6. Bold requires sacrifice. When people are asked to sacrifice for something bold they believe in, it’s incredibly powerful. It renders a deep level of commitment to the organization.
7. Does not settle for half measures. If you and your donors believe the vision, neither of you should settle for second best.
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