Living the Mission: Connecting People, Purpose & Performance

Living the Mission: Connecting People, Purpose & Performance

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How can a #nonprofit create shared values to rally & align influencers/employees? @MSL_DC's #MSLPurPle event explores

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Friday, May 17, 2013 - 2:45pm

CAMPAIGN: PurPle: Purpose + People


A non-profit is – by definition – a purpose-driven organization. But how do you create shared values that rally and align influencers and employees?

Communications leaders from more than 15 leading non-profits explored the issue this week at a special MSLGROUP Great Minds event.

As competition for dollars intensifies, smart organizations have shifted from simply pushing information out to employees to engaging and energizing them to deliver growth and impact. These groups recognize that all they really have to offer their funders, volunteers and other supporters is trust that they share the same values and a reputation for delivering on those values.    

Before shaking up the breast cancer community by rebranding with a laser-focused goal in 2010 to end breast cancer, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) knew it had to align its staff, scientists and supporters, said Michelle Zelsman, Director of Marketing and Communications.

“When we launched our deadline 2020 for ending breast cancer, people told us that what we were doing was going to put some people out of business. We knew it was hard, but we stayed focused on the number of lives that would be saved, and kept all our advocates focused on that,” Zelsman said.

The focus on a clear, shared goal and compelling storytelling is paying off. Scientists are approaching the research differently and the conversation is starting to shift, Zelsman said.

A much larger, iconic non-profit, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is working on similar employee engagement issues.

“Our most important asset is our employees,” said Nick Conger, senior communications specialist at WWF.

But keeping 6,000 employees and 5 million supporters in 100 countries engaged can be challenging. To help, WWF recently launched a Master Storyteller’s program designed to train and equip staff and build community – critical elements of a successful employee engagement initiative. Conger said they're teaching their employees to be "future oriented, connect to everyday lives and speak in plain language" when communicating about WWF and its mission.

To successfully connect people, purpose and performance, organizations must:
   •    Be credible, authentic and transparent
   •    Create systems and channels that enable real-time communications
   •    Activate all four generations of the workforce
   •    Create, train and equip  brand champions
   •    Empower people to tell and share stories
   •    Replace rulebooks with shared beliefs
   •    Build communities that align purpose and goals and celebrate success


Sheila Gruber McLean is a Senior Vice President and Co-Lead of MSLGROUP's industry-leading Cause/CSR offering, PurPle (Purpose + People). Sheila has extensive experience in Cause/CSR, media, public affairs, non-profit and corporate communications.