Your mission statement is the backbone of your nonprofit organization’s campaign. It explains who you are, what you support, and how a donor’s time and money will be spent to help the charity reach its goals.
The mission statement can make or break your charity’s efforts.
What is a Mission Statement?
An organization’s mission statement is a formal, written set of values and desired achievements for the entity. It outlines the vision of the organization, the characteristics that describe the actions and behaviors of the company and its employees, and a formalized statement of its goals and objectives.
A well-written mission statement can inspire employees and potential partners. It defines what your organization represents and why it exists. Internally, the mission statement will unify your employees and volunteers, giving them solidarity and a concrete set of goals. Externally, your donors and partners will see exactly what your company stands for and how their donations will help move the organization closer to its goals.
An effective mission statement will captivate your target audience and resonate within them. It helps your potential donors and partners decide that working with you is beneficial to your charity and to the community or to the cause you represent.
Your mission statement will be what sets your nonprofit organization apart from the competition. It’s important that your mission statement is strong, unique, and focused.
Mission Statement vs Vision Statement
Your company’s mission statement is different than its vision statement. A vision statement focuses on the future goals of your organization while the mission statement is more about what you are achieving now, in the present. The mission statement supports the organization’s long-term vision statement.
Both the mission statement and the vision statement summarize your organization’s desired outcomes. The vision statement just looks further down the road for your organization while the mission statement looks just around the next bend.
Writing an Effective Mission Statement
An effective mission statement will be simple and relevant while also being inspirational and defined. It’s not enough to say, for instance, that your NPO will “help all animals.” A mission statement should be measurable, such as adding a specific geographical location, the target of your charity, and a specific action. In this case, “Help all animals” would be better defined as “Help feed homeless pets in Chicago.” This clarification will draw specific donors to your charity, such as Chicago residents or pet lovers in this example. This will also help you focus your campaign efforts on a targeted audience most likely to support it.
Your mission statement should be an accurate, truthful summary of your organization’s beliefs and objectives. Keeping it targeted and specific will help it be more relatable to your internal and external customers.
An effective mission statement should offer optimism and hope while maintaining realistic expectations. Your entire mission statement will have goals that are within reach. In our example, we don’t want to indicate that we can feed all of the homeless pets in Chicago at once. We need to acknowledge that it will take time while showing that it can be done. We also want to draw our prospective clients into our mission:
“With your help, we will feed our homeless pets in Chicago, one hungry mouth at a time.”
We have given our potential partners and donors a manageable goal that can be reached with their help.
If your nonprofit grows past its geographical limitations, the mission statement can be changed to reflect that. The mission statement can also be adjusted to show that you have achieved success in your initial campaign:
“We have made a difference to the homeless pets in Chicago; now we want to help even more pets throughout Illinois.”
Keys to Drafting Your Nonprofit’s Most Effective Mission Statement
It isn’t difficult to draft an effective mission statement. Start with the true objective of your nonprofit, and work around that goal.
Ten keys to a successful mission statement include:
1. Short and Targeted:
It’s a mission statement, not War and Peace. Keep it under 300 words for the best effect. Too short means you might miss your point, but too long may mean your target audience won’t finish reading it. Make every word count.
2. Make it Inspirational
Make your mission statement compelling and inspirational. It should be unique enough to capture the attention and imagination of everyone reading it.
3. Keep it Real
Remember to use honesty, integrity, and reality in your mission statement. Never make claims you have no intention to keep or make statements your organization doesn’t really represent.
Your strategy should be to identify your purpose, form a long-term vision for the organization, and break it down to smaller pieces for your mission statement.
5. Be Ready to Change
Your mission statement should be adaptable as your goals are met and your organization grows.
6. Use “Heart” Words
Community, global, integrity, honesty and excellence are great examples of “heart words.” “Heart words” are words that trigger an emotional response or invoke a sense of well-being and solidarity.
7. Define How You Will Reach Your Goals
It’s not enough to state your goals. You need to show a clear, definite path to reaching them.
8. Don’t Forget the Values
Your values are the things that drive your organization to accomplish great things. Share these on your mission statement.
9. Cover All the Angles
Inspiration, purpose, value, and goals are the four most important concepts your mission statement should cover.
10. Let Your Employees Help
Your mission statement will be better if you let all of your employees or volunteers weigh in on what they feel is important for their organization. Letting them help draft your mission statement gives them a feeling of unity and loyalty to your NPO.
You may not be able to fit all ten elements into your mission statement but incorporate as many of them as you can use naturally.
Putting It All Together
Let’s put it all together now and see how our Chicago Homeless Pets charity might draft their mission statement.
“(1) CHP aims to feed homeless pets in Chicago, one hungry mouth at a time. We are a (2) community of (3) vets, experts and caring people who have devoted themselves to (4) collecting food and money for hungry pets on our Chicago streets. (5) We strive to make sure all homeless pets on our streets have access to food and water, so no pet in our city ever goes hungry again.”
1. Who we are, where we work, and what we do
2. Heart word
3. Experts that make our charity stand out from others
4. Specific concrete ways that our donors and partners are helping
5. “Just around the bend” goals
Note that the mission statement can easily be reworked as the organization grows.
Your mission statement should closely align with those of everyone your company works with. We have included a checklist for evaluating mission-friendly partners to make sure that your organization works with others that will help you move your campaign forward.
How Does Your Mission Statement Measure Up?
Now that you understand the purpose of your mission statement and the key elements to make it effective, you should be able to measure your own mission statement. Is it clear, concise and inspirational? Do you have “heart” words and achievable goals? Will your employees, partners, and donors understand how they can make a difference by choosing your charity?
Remember that it’s never too late to change a mission statement to make it a better fit for your organization.