What’s in A Mission Statement?

By Rachael Bogema

As an administrator for a museum with a small staff and big dreams, it seems as though my trusty to-do list has become my lifeline for everyday business. We all have to-do lists to keep us from forgetting the tasks, large and small, that keep our organizations afloat. But what about the broader tasks? What connects my to-do list with those of the rest of my staff? How do we as an organization ensure that progress is made on long term objectives, while simultaneously attempting to engage our visitors, make tricky financial decisions, complete short term projects, and keep everyone happy? The answer lies in the organizational mission statement.

In his book Museum Administration, Hugh Genoways describes an organization’s long term existence as a road, and its mission statement as a vehicle. This vehicle carries the organization throughout its existence to certain destinations. As we all well know, if a vehicle is not properly maintained or abused, it will fail to carry you to that destination. While most organizations have mission statements, many fail to properly evaluate their relevance or effectiveness, thereby rendering their “vehicle” useless.

In 2010 our museum took on the somewhat daunting task of reading our mission statement, placing it within our organizational context, and evaluating its effectiveness. What we found was that we had far outgrown that statement, and needed to renovate our mission in order to maintain an appropriate “vehicle” that would serve us as a growing museum. After creating several drafts, receiving feedback from staff, volunteers, and community partners, and evaluating the mission’s relevance within our everyday professional lives, we came up with the following:

The mission of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, a division of the University of Memphis, is to protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.

This statement may not seem revolutionary, but this mission renovation has affected every aspect of our organization’s life for the past two years. As our vehicle, the statement has carried us to several grants, projects, events, and opportunities that have enabled us to make great progress towards our long term objectives.

We recently created a mission statement that would serve to unite and motivate us as a staff in seeking new ways to better our skills as museum professionals. The most recent draft of our staff mission statement is:

Our mission is to serve as ambassadors of the C.H. Nash Museum’s mission by providing exceptional customer service to the Museum’s communities. We will establish and maintain a supportive organizational atmosphere that emphasizes teamwork, communication, and mutual respect while promoting professional and personal growth.

Do you think this statement will serve our staff as an appropriate vehicle for forward movement? What changes could be made to make this statement more effective? We look forward to your feedback!

Rachael Bogema is the Administrative Associate at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. 

About C.H. Nash Museum

The mission of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, a division of the University of Memphis, is to protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the Public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.
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