3.1 Communicating values
How do organisations communicate their shared values in a statement that its staff, volunteers and other stakeholders can understand and relate to? The most common approach is through its mission statement, website, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, advertisements for recruiting staff and volunteers, and in fundraising campaigns. Statements of values explain to staff, stakeholders and the public what the purpose of the organisation is and what it stands for or what it feels is important.
The following extract highlights how all organisations (not just those in the voluntary sector) regard statements of values as important.
Box 1 Values-led businesses
Beyond pursuing success and profitability, organisations realised some time ago that their stakeholders needed them to be able to say: ‘This is how we do things here.’
It is hard now to find an organisation of any shape or size, from small NGOs to large corporates, which doesn’t publicly list its values, often quite prominently. Greenpeace International, for example, lists its values as: personal responsibility and nonviolence, independence, having no permanent friends or foes and promoting solutions. While Coca-Cola claims to be motivated by values of leadership, passion, integrity, accountability, collaboration, innovation and quality.
Similar lists can be found on the websites of virtually all organisations. The challenge is establishing what they mean and how stakeholders can ensure they are being lived and embodied, not just espoused.
Activity 5 Mission statements
Here is a mission statement from Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
A Wales where everyone is inspired to work together to improve their lives, their communities and their environment.
We will provide excellent support, leadership and an influential voice for the third sector and volunteering in Wales.
We believe a strong and active third sector builds resilient, cohesive and inclusive communities, gives people a stake in their future through their own actions and services, creates a strong, healthy and fair society and demonstrates the value of volunteering and community involvement.
We are determined to demonstrate …
- Diversity – being accessible to all
- Fairness – being open and consistent
- Integrity – being honest, and upholding the independence of the third sector
- Accountability – being ethical, responsible and responsive
- Partnership – working with all those who help to achieve our vision
- Sustainability – making a positive impact on people, communities and the planet
Using the list below, make notes on how well the Wales Council for Voluntary Action addresses the requirements to make its purpose and values clear:
- who the organisation is
- what it does
- what it stands for
- how it will achieve its purpose.
There is quite a lot here about the values of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and they give a strong sense of the Council’s purpose and ambition. What is often difficult in a mission statement is to give specific detail about how to achieve the organisation’s purpose.
In the next activity you will think about the values of your own organisation (if you are working or volunteering) or one that interests you.
Activity 6 Exploring organisational values
Write down what you think are the most important values that underlie the work of your organisation. If you are not already working or volunteering, choose an organisation that you would like to work for and use their main website or what they put on social media sites to find the information about their values.
Has there been or can you foresee any conflicts that might arise between these different values?
Your response to this task will reflect not only your own observations about your organisation and your colleagues but also your own values and attitudes. It might also have helped you to think about issues and values you had perhaps taken for granted. You may have struggled to find the information you need. Perhaps if you work in (or chose) a small organisation, nothing is written down formally. This might have led you to think about whether that is appropriate and whether it affects staff/volunteer motivation or could impact on fundraising or seeking contracts.