The Nonprofit Mission Statement as Genre: Speech Acts, Social Facts, and Ecologies

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Virginia Tech

In this case study, the author explores the nonprofit mission statement as a genre, its place within a genre ecology, and its communication through various genres. Theorizing the mission statement as a controlling and stabilizing force in a genre ecology, the author notes the potential of the mission statement to enact the genre function, "the authority a genre has even in the absence of its author. Noting the limitations of current genre ecology modeling (GEM), the author maps the genres, documents, and activities of a small community foundation using a revised form of GEM that more purposefully includes speech genres to map relationships; in this case study, the speech genres revealed how the mission statement is mediated through genres and activities. Further, observations and interviews revealed ideological conflicts of the organization's key stakeholders that resulted in clashes between key stakeholder values and the language of the nonprofit's mission (and other genres). Additionally, ideological consensus resulted in the addition of new organizational activities and genres, even though these activities are not in line with the language of the mission statement as written. Eventually, these activities become social facts, "ideas that the key stakeholders believe are in line with the mission when they are, in fact, in conflict with it. If these social facts are not re-aligned with the mission statement, new activities and genres are created and mediated by speech genres, potentially moving the organization further away from its purpose and goals. The author ultimately suggests a cycle of genre and activity production that will realign the social facts and the mission statement and encourage organizational leaders to return to the mission statement and change the language to reflect the organization's new reality.

mission, genre, speech acts, social facts, genre ecology, nonprofit