Lego Batman is awesome

And Why Understanding Batman Will Help Your Cause…

When you write your non-profit’s mission statement, do you feel something missing?

Do you struggle to find the right words to convey your passion, your beliefs, and how worthy your cause is?

You know people understand what you’re doing, but you wish you could motivate more to help you in your mission.

Have you thrown up your hands in frustration and filled out the most boring Mad Libs story ever? You know the one—you’ve seen many of your peers fill-in the blanks. “We are a 501(c)(3) that helps (insert group of people) with (service), (service), and (service).


It’s so hard to convey everything about your mission and organization into a sentence or two.

There’s an unconventional approach to motivate more people to join your cause. If you know a hero’s story, you can make your story far more compelling.

So How Can Understanding a Hero Help Your Nonprofit’s Mission!?

Let’s use an easy example of a hero to illustrate what I mean—Batman. You don’t need to have seen a single Batman movie or be a comic book nerd.

What does Batman do?

He fights crime and beats up the bad guys.

How does Batman fight crime?

Alone (although sometimes with Robin) at night while wearing all black. He also has tons of cool high-tech gadgets to catch the bad guys.

Why does Batman fight crime?

  • Bruce Wayne fights crime because he saw his parents murdered when he was a boy.
  • He felt afraid and powerless to stop it.
  • He doesn’t want the innocent to feel this way. He wants the criminals to feel fear.
  • Bruce wants to honor his father’s legacy of helping the less fortunate in Gotham City.

Let’s review that to see where his story is most compelling.

What: Batman fights crime.

Obviously good, but not unique. Lots of people fight crime.

How: Batman uses cool gadgets to help him catch criminals.

Slightly more interesting, but there are lots of high-tech gadgets these days.

Why: Bruce copes with the death of his parents by making criminals afraid and saving the innocent of Gotham.

This is where we’re drawn to Bruce/Batman. We feel the emotional and human connection. The pain. The anger. The calling to do more and be more for others. This is why we’re drawn into Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s story.

Now, let’s focus that into a mission statement.

Batman’s Mission Statement:

To be more than a man. To be the beacon of hope for the innocent and a symbol to fear for the wicked in Gotham City.

That’s his vision. Two sentences. It doesn’t explain everything, and it doesn’t need to. Here’s why.

If you had never heard of Batman/Bruce Wayne and his story, that mission statement would spark your curiosity. You’d likely react by asking, “Wow, how does he do that?”

That’s the purpose of your vision and mission statement. For people unfamiliar with your organization, it should make them want to know more about you and your work.

So how do you use this process to write your nonprofit’s mission statement?

Ask the three “What, How, and Why” questions to make your mission more compelling:

Warm-up by trying a fictional hero or a real life hero.

  1. Start with what they do.
  2. Then write how they do that.
  3. Next, dig into why the hero is called to their mission. Get inside their beliefs and feel their emotions.

Finally, take the hero’s calling and summarize the mission into one or two sentences. Don’t worry about the what and how; the mission statement should be connected to the why.

Once you’ve practiced the process using a hero, go through the process yourself. Make clear WHY you do what you do every day.

It’s tough to write about WHY our organization does what it does:

Absolutely, it’s challenging to explain why your organization exists. That’s why it’s easier to get comfortable with the process by writing about someone else.

Then when you’re ready, use the process to communicate your emotion, passion, and love that are inside.

If you’re struggling with this and nothing feels right, try the following:

  1. Bring in a trusted advisor to provide outside perspective. (This is the reason I had you go through the What, How, Why process with a hero. It’s often easier for someone outside to get to this.)
  2. Talk to a variety of people within your organization—what’s their perspective? Why are they called to this mission?
  3. Invest 18-minutes and watch Simon Sinek beautifully explain this in his How Great Leaders Inspire Action speech. (It’s what inspired me to write this.)

Why You Can Do This and Why It’s Worth It:

Leading with your organization’s reason for being, beliefs, and calling will attract like-minded people.

What you do is important, but it isn’t what motivates people to join your cause. Why? Because if you simplify every non-profit’s mission, everyone’s doing the same thing. Helping people.

But, every organization has a different motivation for why they push forward.

The ability to communicate your WHY makes it easier to connect with people. Isn’t that what it takes to further your mission? Whether you’re writing a grant or speaking at an event, you want to connect with people.

Think about it from the other side for a minute. Think of a time when you listened to another non-profit talk about their work.

It was understandable and good work. Yet, when they asked you to volunteer, donate, or join them in their cause—you didn’t. Why? Because something didn’t feel right? Was it a “gut” feeling? That was an emotional response. They failed to speak to you on a deep level and motivate you.

Your mission is emotional work. Please don’t let your mission statement and vision sound like the start of a stuffy annual report. Your non-profit has a story and purpose, and when you dig deep, you’ll connect with more people.

I hope this helps you make your vision clearer and furthers your mission.