How To Write A Nonprofit Mission Statement
What’s the most important question that nonprofit leaders can ask themselves when making a decision?
It’s something along the lines of, “Does this align with our mission statement?”
A nonprofit organization’s mission is what gives it purpose. Like how businesses are created to seek financial returns for their shareholders, nonprofits are created to pursue a mission that’s dedicated to a community of beneficiaries.
Every decision, no matter how small, should serve and be closely aligned with this mission.
A mission statement serves two other essential purposes. First, it unites board members, staff, and volunteers around a joint initiative, motivating them to believe in their work. Second, it helps audiences that are unfamiliar with your work understand what you do.
In this article, I’m going to keep things simple and touch on two main points:
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Use this template to write a mission statement that keeps your team aligned and motivates your supporters to commit to your nonprofit’s cause.
What is a Mission Statement?
When drafting a mission statement, you’ll have to ask yourself, what is my organization, and why does it exist?
Ideally, you’ll have asked yourself this before incorporating a nonprofit. But if not, this question will prompt you to articulate your mission in terms of the societal values you aim to fulfill.
Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement
A mission statement shouldn’t be so aspirational that it’s a vision statement. Your mission statement explains why your organization exists, while a vision statement describes what the world would look like if you achieved your mission.
Here are two examples that demonstrate the difference.
Mission statement: to put a stop to the creation of potholes and promote the efficacy of pothole repair.
Vision statement: to live in a world where no driver fears hitting a pothole.
Clearly, the above mission statement focuses on the broad social service that the organization strives to fulfill. But, the vision statement focuses on an ideal world that the eradication of potholes would create.
Mission Statement vs. Goals Statement
It’s also important to consider that a mission statement shouldn’t be as specific as a goals statement. A goal statement highlights the specific milestones an organization plans to reach to achieve its mission.
Let’s take a look at two examples that will help us understand the difference.
Mission statement: To eradicate chickenpox and enhance the quality of life of people living with chickenpox.
Goals Statement: To eradicate and mitigate the effects of chickenpox through research, education, patient care, and public policy advocacy.
As you can see, the mission statement discusses the broad change the organization is driven to achieve. Slightly different, the goals statement goes into more depth about the specific steps the organization will take to accomplish its mission.
How To Write A Mission Statement
Every organization is different, so it would be impossible for me to tell everyone reading this exactly how to write their mission statement. So instead, I’ve outlined five best practices for creating a great mission statement that will be perfectly suited to your organization.
1. Consult Your Stakeholders
Like how you manage a nonprofit, you must rely on the input of others to craft a mission statement that is truly reflective of your organization. Feedback is essential because your mission statement needs to be helpful to others to inspire your volunteers and staff and motivate donors to give.
If you’re looking for a way to easily survey your key stakeholders check out Keela’s forms. Keela allows you to create as many forms as you want to meet your specific growth goals. All of our forms are customizable, mobile responsive, and automatically sync up with your Keela CRM.
2. Narrow Your Focus
You can’t be everything to everyone. But, if you boil your mission statement down to what you do best, you will have a guideline for being the most effective organization possible. Try to hold your statement to a 20-word limit.
TopNonprofits may be able to help with narrowing your focus. They have a list of 50 mission statement examples graded on clarity, usefulness, and, you guessed it, concision. Check this list of examples out to get some creative juices flowing.
3. Compare To Similar Organizations
Please don’t steal someone else’s mission statement! But, it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. Try to identify a few mission statements of organizations within your cause area to understand the language and topics that are important to draw on.
If you need help finding similar organizations, Guidestar’s search engine allows you to identify US-based nonprofits using keywords. Even using their free platform, you’ll be able to research nonprofits in your cause area.
For Canadian readers, Blumbergs Charity Data is a fantastic resource to identify nonprofits just like yours. You can refine your search based on keywords, location, and even cause area.
4. Avoid Jargon
Each word in your mission statement should have a clear meaning. It’s crucial to stay away from any wording that others would have a hard time understanding. Once you’ve drafted your mission statement, cross-reference it with this list of 127 examples of jargon to make sure none of them appear in your statement.
5. Remain Open and Review Frequently
As the community you serve changes, so will your organization. You must remain open and flexible to changing your mission as your beneficiaries’ needs do.
Communicate Your Impact with this FREE Storytelling Toolkit
Use this toolkit to discover the key elements of a good impact story and learn how to write and get access to a template so you can get a head start on your writing.
Writing a mission statement isn’t the most challenging part of managing a nonprofit. But, it will be one of the most crucial discussions you’ll make and one that will have a lasting impact on your work. So, take your time drafting it and focus on the change you want to make in your community.