Real Benefits of Knowing Your Organization's 'Why'

Knowing why your organization exists can be an existentially difficult question to answer. What good do you want to do in the world? What do you want to change? The reason your organization exists underlies the core beliefs that undergird all of your organizations actions. 

Beliefs are usually at the heart of purpose-driven organizations, but they are rarely articulated, especially in marketing materials, which is too bad because a clearly articulated why has lots of concrete benefits. 

What does a good why look like?

Let’s look at some examples from big companies and large nonprofit organizations. Why does Nike make shoes? The company believes in athletics. Why does Patagonia make outdoor gear the way that it does? Because  “…a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them."

Warby Parker’s mission statement says the company “was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”

TOMS Shoes mission statement is: “For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need. One for one.” Oxfam’s mission statement is just five words long: A just world without poverty.”

Kiva’s is a bit longer: “We envision a world where all people—even in the most remote areas of the globe—hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

And the mission statement for Amnesty International envisions a “world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.”

People don’t want to be part of what you do; they want to be part of why you do it. They want to do business with people who believe what they believe. This is why it’s important that you are able to clearly and effectively communicate the belief or beliefs that informs your organization’s reason for existing.

Furthermore, revealing your beliefs to your audience, in turn, shows your organization’s authenticity. Your audience doesn’t pay attention to product-hawking or service-shilling. They pay attention when real people who sound like them say things that resonate with their experience. Once you’re able to do that, you’ll attract the kind of loyal, belief-driven partners, customers, and supporters that can build an organization’s future.

Big Benefits of Knowing Your Why

1) Better Understand Your Audience and Your Potential Audience

Your audience may have a lot of demographic differences. They may come from different parts of the world. Some might be Boomers and others Millennials. What unites them is their shared belief in your why. Articulating your why clearly will allow you to analyze how and why your audience identifies with your mission. And it will make clear whom you should reach out to because they share your beliefs. All your connections are based on a shared why.

2) Better Team

Not only is your audience made up for people who share your why, your best employees are committed to your vision. “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, but to hire people who believe what you believe,” writes Olivia Perek for New Breed Marketing. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. If you hire people who believe in what you believe, they will work along side you and help grow your business.”

As a purpose-driven organization, this is something you’ve probably noticed among your team. People who are motivated by a bigger purpose are the ones who support real growth. This is a residual effect of articulating your why.

3) Better Content

Your why is at the core of all of your messaging. It is both the most important thing to communicate to your audience and also the belief that informs every single story or image you share. A well-defined why will make your content richer, higher quality, and more effective. It will result in a more coherent digital strategy. Think of your why as the foundation on which all your communications are built. A solid why supports the growth of all other parts of your digital strategy.

And when it comes time to measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy, the first question you’ll ask is: Has it successfully served your core values and beliefs? Has it helped you achieve your why?

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This article is an excerpt from my book-in-progress called "Ignite Action: A Digital Strategy Handbook." For more about the book, check out my "why" for writing it.