Solidifying and writing down the family mission statement makes it official, and is one of the last and most important steps in creating your family legacy plan.
By Phil Tobin
This article is the seventh in a series taken from The One Page Legacy Plan by Phil Tobin, a free downloadable eBook from iGiftFund. In this piece, we’ll discuss how to finalize your family mission statement, the anchor of your One Page Legacy Plan. Some material in this section is abstracted from an article written by Brett and Kate McKay, “Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement.”
NOTE: Some readers of this series may not have received the One Page Legacy Plan Worksheet that should have been included with the first article in this series. For your convenience, both the One Page Legacy Plan and the One Page Legacy Plan Worksheet are included at the end of this article.
During the process of creating your family’s mission statement, I’ve stressed the importance of not worrying about whether your mission statement sounds or looks “right,” and that the process we’ve discussed in these last two articles about determining your family’s purpose and values was the important part.
That remains true – but keep in mind that the family mission statement is a written statement that will be seen and reflected upon by your family for generations to come. Getting it to a place where you’re happy and confident is important. Here’s how to whittle down the conversations you’ve had with your family, and to capture the essence of your family’s mission:
Capture key words and phrases. Brainstorm a list of phrases that really capture the goals and mission of your family. One family I worked with chose “May your first word be adventure and your last word be love” as one of their catchphrases.
Roy Williams and Vic Preisser of the The Williams Group, a firm specializing in generational wealth transfer, offer a few other examples:
- “To maximize the equitable transfer of my assets in a way that will enable and encourage my heirs to work for the benefit of humanity.”
- “Through God’s grace, dream, plan and grow closer to God and each other using the resources entrusted to our care for the benefit of God’s work, family, business, people and the community.”
Your phrases might come from books, movies, poems, or speeches. Or they can be catchphrases you make up yourselves.
Narrow your list of values. You’ve now probably amassed a giant list of values/phrases/goals/ideas that could be included in your mission statement. While it’s tempting to include every good value the members of your family can think of, whittle your master list down to ten (or fewer) values that encapsulate your family’s mission.
One way to whittle down the list and gain consensus is by using the “Delphi” method, in which the leader summarizes a larger list into a smaller list and then anonymously recycles the smaller list back to the family members to whittle the list even smaller. This process goes on until the list contains the ultimate number desired.
Begin writing. Once you have your list of values, it’s time to synthesize them into a single mission statement. Brace yourself – this can be one of the most challenging parts of the entire process. Don’t expect to crank it out in a single sitting. As you write out your mission statement, keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Keep it short. Mission statements work best if they’re kept short, because short is memorable. Writing always turns out better when you place constraints on it because it forces you to really think about what you put down. If possible, try to limit your mission to twenty words max.
- Make it collaborative. For example, task each member of the family with writing phrases for two to three of your values. Then have them present their work for family discussion and approval. Even if you do most of the writing yourself, get plenty of feedback from the other members of your family and give them a final vote of approval.
- Document the mission statement in bullet points. This makes it clear, succinct, and easy to read for all family members.
- Take as much time as you need. Write, edit, and rewrite until everyone is happy with the final product. This is something you’ll look to for years and years, so it’s okay if it takes a few weeks to get it just right.
To give you some ideas, here is sample family from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey:
Our family mission is to:
- Value honesty with ourselves and others
- Create an environment where each of us can find support and encouragement
in achieving our life’s goals
- Respect and accept each person’s unique personality and talents
- Promote a loving, kind, and happy atmosphere
- Support family endeavors that better society
- Maintain patience through understanding
- Always resolve conflicts with each other rather than harboring anger
- To love each other
- To help each other
- To believe in each other
- To wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others
- To worship together
This is just one example, and there’s no wrong way to draft your mission statement. But remember: A family mission statement is useless if you don’t use it. As you go about your day-to-day life, be intentional about finding teaching moments in which you can refer back to your family mission statement.
Also remember, families change as the years go by – kids grow up and life-changing events occur. Feel free to adjust your mission statement when you think it’s appropriate, but don’t make it a frequent occurrence. It should be like amending the U.S. Constitution: rarely and with reservation.
Once you’ve completed your family mission statement, include it your One Page Legacy Plan. And there’s just one final step left to complete your plan.
Phil Tobin is Chairman and President of iGiftFund.
Next in this series: In our final article, we’ll discuss determining the goals of your legacy plan, and some of the important tools you can use to reach those goals.
iGiftFund is an IRS-recognized, independent, public charity that sponsors donor advised funds. Its mission is to inspire donors to create, preserve and distribute their philanthropic legacy and to make a truly remarkable impact on the lives of others, including the donor.
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