Association Leadership: What A Good Vision Statement Looks Like

Last week we discussed how association leadership should approach your association’s Vision Statement. In this week’s blog we highlight good, the bad, and the ugly of Vision Statements. These are real vision statements that we changed enough to protect the companies and associations that submitted them. Our changes are in [brackets].

vision statement association leadership

The Good

At the end of 2017, Acme is recognized by business, media, and government as the most important authority for Canadian [xyz] issues, and the principal advocate for the [xyz] community. With [X,000] highly engaged members and [X] regional chapters, we have more in diverse revenue and a sustainable business model for an expanded delivery of our mandate.

In particular:

  1. We understand and address the in-depth needs of our members across a broad industry and sector representation.
  1. Our annual conference is the foremost [xyz] event in Canada with more than [X] exhibitors and [X] attendees.
  1. We are an important career resource for members and the preferred sourcing point for [xyz] roles for Canadian employers.
  1. Our searchable online library of precedents, tools, and resources is a central component of the value we provide members, and the most comprehensive source of [xyz] knowledge in Canada.
  1. We provide timely, relevant communication to our members regarding issues that matter to them.
  1. Our efforts have helped to improve the understanding and importance of the role of the [xyz professional] in Canada.

What makes it good?

It’s relatively short, and they have put the supporting detail in bullet points that could easily be dropped when a sound bite is all that is needed. It’s written in an active voice. This may have thrown you at first to see the words “we are, we have” in a vision statement, but it creates a sense of ownership over a passive voice of “the XYZ organization will…” or worse yet, “a new system will…” This statement is specific about the timing, but not too detailed. Using 2017 creates a sense of urgency, but they recognized that this is still a strategic document, and they didn’t say “March 1” 2017.

They made sure that everything in here is measurable. They didn’t (and shouldn’t) lay out the exact measures in the Vision Statement, but they made sure the concepts are concrete enough to actually track for success.

The statement is written as if it already is 2017, and this vision was written in 2014. Remember this is a vision of where the organization will be, not a strategy, or plan of how to get there. Although the statement is specific and easy to understand, the vision is not a slam dunk. This organization will really have to stretch itself to achieve this vision, and any employee or member would immediately recognize that. Employees would also recognize that under the right circumstances, the vision is achievable.

Although it’s a vision statement, it foreshadows the real priorities of the organization.

The Bad

“The [XYX] is a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all those who are interested in risk analysis. Risk analysis is broadly defined to include risk assessment, risk characterization, risk communication, risk management, and policy relating to risk, in the context of risks of concern to individuals, to public and private sector organizations, and to society at a local, regional, national, or global level.”

What makes it bad?

It is too complicated and even people in this field will not read it. This is not a Vision Statement at all. It’s more of a description of what this society is and a definition of their work.

The Downright Ugly

“To be the leading global force in advancing science to enhance human, animal, and environmental health.”

What makes it ugly?

This could be for almost anything. This statement is far too vague to be valuable. Furthermore it won’t drive any action because anyone that reads it will not take it seriously. Finally, it doesn’t make sense grammatically.

Now you know what to look for when reviewing your association’s Vision Statement. 

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