What’s Your Mission? Writing a Mission Statement for Your Nonprofit
July 14, 2022
Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it?
Your mission statement for your nonprofit organization should answer those questions.
What is a Mission Statement?
It’s an action-based expression of your nonprofit’s purpose and the people you serve. It should also summarize your goals for donors, staff and volunteers.
Why is a Mission Statement Important?
When well-conceived, it can leave a lasting impression and inspire action. It serves as a snapshot of your nonprofit, so a reader should be able to walk away with an understanding of what your organization does and how you achieve your goals.
What to Include in Your Mission Statement
To make it memorable, keep it brief – one to three sentences that provide a measurable standard to guide your operation. A mission statement is not something your nonprofit hopes to achieve in the future. It’s rooted in action and what you’re doing in the present.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What’s the one cause, ideal or service you want your nonprofit to be known for?
- What message will resonate most with your donor base, staff and other stakeholders?
- What services do you currently provide that help you achieve your mission?
An effective mission statement includes:
- A cause: Who you serve, what’s important and why it matters
- An action: The steps your organization takes to address a need
- A result: The change you make as a nonprofit
Anyone should be able to read your mission statement and understand your nonprofit’s purpose, so it’s best to avoid vague statements and jargon.
The Writing Process
Crowdsource for information: Talk with your leadership team about the image they wish to convey to the outside world. Ask staff and volunteers which ideals best represent the organization. Those specifics will allow you to differentiate your nonprofit in the mission statement, especially if other organizations serve a similar purpose.
Identify common themes: Don’t rush the process. You’re crafting a few potent sentences to represent your entire nonprofit, and that requires consideration. Note your internal team’s common ideas and themes. Write a paragraph about each idea and what it means to your nonprofit. Then, condense each paragraph into a single sentence. Continue to pare down your ideas until you’ve reached a concise mission statement.
Get feedback: Present your statement to the leadership team for review. You may receive conflicting points of view, but take the input in stride. The critiques provide more perspective to help you define your mission statement.
When to Rewrite Your Mission Statement
There may come a time when the core of your mission, services, programs or organization’s structure changes, requiring you to revisit your mission statement.
These scenarios typically require a mission statement rewrite:
- Your current statement is lengthy and can convey the same message with fewer sentences.
- Your mission statement uses vague language that doesn’t inspire action.
- Your nonprofit’s purpose or goals have shifted.
- You’re serving a new audience.
- You’re increasing or limiting your scope of service.
- Financial or staffing changes require you to cut back or alter your capabilities.