What is a mission statement?

A nonprofit mission statement can be defined as, “A short statement of an organization's purpose, identifying the scope of its operations: what kind of service it provides and its primary clients.”

Unlike a vision statement which is more of a declaration of an organization's objectives, intended to guide its internal decision-making, a mission statement offers a road map to enable the nonprofit to accomplish its purpose and attain its goals.

Given the important of a mission statement in shaping the organization’s strategic approach and tactical activities, leaders of nonprofits should invest time into writing their mission statement as well as reviewing it periodically to ensure that it continues to be relevant and achievable.

Why do nonprofits’ often cite their mission statements?

Having a well-defined mission is critical to the success of any nonprofit. Without a clear purpose it is difficult if not impossible to gain internal and external buy-in. This means that when a mission statement is crafted, the language should be understandable and practical. There should be no need for a lengthy explanation regarding the cause or interpretation of what is being accomplished.

A relevant and inspiring mission statement can support the organization’s community outreach, attracting donors and funders as well as volunteers while at the same time motivating the staff and board to embrace the organization with passion and energy.

How does a nonprofit write a powerful mission statement?

While there is no right or wrong way to craft a mission statement, acknowledging it as the foundation for all communications is step one.  The next critical step is to say exactly what you mean, eliminating elaborate or unnecessary language. The more quickly you can get to the point, the more likely you are to attract the attention of all your audiences. The third component for a good mission statement is the content. Many of the most effective nonprofit mission statements share these attributes:

  • It creates and emotional connection
  • It is effective when written and spoken
  • It is focused
  • It is achievable
  • It is brief
  • It uses language that resonates with the audience
  • It is understandable

Having a mission statement is one of the key communication tools for every nonprofit, whether newly launched or well-established. Everyone you touch needs to have a quick and concise understanding of what you do and why you do it.  

One final word:  Consider that your mission should speak on behalf of the organization. If it is too complicated and complex for you to easily remember, how can you expect anyone else to recall it?