Some nonprofits prefer a brief one to two clear sentences as a mission statement; others prefer long versions.
Regardless of the length, remember that, as you write it, it will become part of your “pitch” as you recruit board members, employees, volunteers, and donors. It will serve as a touchstone for your organization. It should guide all of your organization’s initiatives.
Don’t Rush the Process
Crafting an effective and memorable mission statement is an important step in building a strong nonprofit organization and requires that you take your time as you develop it. Everything your organization will do needs to tie in to your mission statement, so begin the process of writing your mission statement with patience.
Start the process with brainstorming. Begin the session by asking a few questions:
- What does the organization want to accomplish?
- How are we going to accomplish this goal?
- Who are we serving?
- Who are we engaging in this process?
- What are the values of the organization?
- What is our area of focus?
- Where will we be providing our services?
Put Your Ideas on Paper
At this stage, begin the process of articulating your mission. Capture the ideas generated by your brainstorming session to begin drafting your mission statement. Write a few drafts for the group to go over.
Engage other people, specifically stakeholders, in the process. A mission statement created by two co-founders may make perfect sense to these individuals. However, your organization may have trouble selling itself if potential donors or staff members are confused by it. Bring in other opinions to help shape the mission statement. From the brainstorming step to the final discussion, soliciting opinions should be a part of the process.
As you enter the revision process, begin analyzing your mission statement closely. Think about your word choice. Consider the connotations of words you are using. Examine the sentence structure.
- Is your mission statement too specific?
- Is it too broad?
- Is there a more concise way of saying the same thing?
- Does the language you use allow for the organization to grow or develop?
- Is the mission statement easy to understand?
Once you have completed your revisions of the mission statement and are happy with it, you can move forward with your organization. Having a clear mission statement will help as you apply for tax-exempt status from the IRS, solicit donors, and engage the community you hope to serve.
Examples of Good Mission Statements
The American Heart Association’s mission statement is straightforward and moving.
“Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”
“As the largest no-kill, nonprofit pet adoption center in Austin, the Austin Humane Society is dedicated to saving Austin’s homeless cats and dogs; educating our community about responsible pet ownership; and reducing pet overpopulation.”
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF offers a much longer mission statement. It combines data and numbers with a promise to help a child.
“Doing whatever it takes to save a child.”Working in over 150 countries, UNICEF is a global humanitarian relief organization providing children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s humanitarian relief work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States.
“Despite extraordinary progress, 22,000 children still die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.”
We also love City Year’s mission:
“City Year’s mission is to build democracy through citizen service, civic leadership and social entrepreneurship. It is through service that we can demonstrate the power and idealism of young people, engage citizens to benefit the common good, and develop young leaders of the next generation.”
Already have a mission statement?
If your nonprofit has had its mission statement for quite a while, it may be important to make sure that all of your nonprofit activities tie back to it. You can learn more: Are you doing what you say you will? Check & review your Nonprofit Mission Statement & Activities.
The Cullinane Law Group is the premier firm for nonprofit organizations – working with charities, foundations, churches, and philanthropists nationwide. We organize and set-up new nonprofits, provide counsel regarding nonprofit law, offer best practices in organizational management and effectiveness.