Defining your purpose

Defining your purpose

Organisational resilience depends on people’s commitment to you, which depends on a strong and shared sense of purpose.

Arts, cultural and heritage organisations tend to have a strong sense of mission: we all want to make a difference in the world. But in today’s uncertain funding environment, it’s become a much more urgent topic. Organisations need a compelling and contemporary way to show why they exist, and why they deserve support.

Your organisation’s purpose statement should clearly articulate how your organisation makes a difference to the world around it. It should energise your activities, and provide a coherent basis for every strategic decision, no matter how tough.

A great purpose statement has the capacity to move and excite people. This is particularly important in the arts, cultural and heritage sector, which should seek to be vision-led and audience-focused. It does this by suggesting a big difference to the world.

What makes a strong purpose statement?

 It needs to be authentic
A purpose statement has to be honest and you must be capable of fulfilling the promise you are making.

— Integrity is key
Straightforward and practical words are better than lofty or pious phrases.

— It shouldn’t be closed and finite
A great purpose statement leaves some room for individual interpretation. People should be able to draw their own conclusions from it, and to bring their own beliefs, values and experiences to it.

Next step: Using the butterfly to explore your purpose — this tool will help you create your organisation’s purpose statement.

It covers:

  • Why a strong and shared sense of purpose is vital to establish commitment.
  • How commitment is key to organisational resilience.
  • What makes a strong purpose statement.

Published December 2018

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