How many times has someone asked you, "What is your mission statement?" Does this question ever give you a moment of panic? You know that YOU understand your mission - you see it clearly in your mind and it drives everything you do. But can you communicate it to someone else in one sentence?
No matter how daunting this task may seem, creating a mission statement is essential for the proper governance and development of your organization. A mission statement clearly and succinctly describes the work you are doing and why you are doing it. Whole Whale's podcast "Is it a mission or a vision statement?" is an excellent resource for any organization who is tackling the task of writing or revising a mission statement.
There is a lot of buzz in the nonprofit sector around mission statements, but sometimes we overlook just why they are so important! Mission statements are not just something an executive director or board writes, puts on their website, and then forgets. Mission statements give power to organizations.
Ultimately, your mission statement should be at the heart of everything you do. Your goals, core values, programs, marketing, and development should flow from your mission statement.
First, your mission statement draws people into your organization. It gives them a quick snapshot of who you are and what exactly you do. Think of a mission statement as the "first look" for anyone who is learning about your nonprofit. Of course, you cannot fully describe your programs and your impact in one sentence. However, one sentence can lead to a much bigger conversation.
Next, mission statements give clarity and direction to your programming. It is so important to have clear communication with your internal stakeholders about your mission. When your staff are making decisions about how to run programs or which programs to add, their discussions should always be centered on your mission statement. Do their decisions fulfill the mission statement?
Your mission statement will also guide your organization's development and help you set your long-term goals. Many times, nonprofit organizations are offered grants or donations with strings attached. Executive directors and board members may be conflicted over accepting these funds. However, if your mission statement is forefront in your minds, deciding whether to accept funds with strings attached should be quite simple. Do the donor's requirements fulfill your mission? Your development must be mission-driven, not donor-driven. The grants you pursue, donations you solicit, and campaigns you execute must all fulfill your mission statement.
Sticking to your mission statement should not make your organization feel limited. Instead when you clearly define your mission and let it permeate all you do, your organization will feel more smoothly managed and passionately directed. Admittedly, not everyone will feel passionate about your mission, and that is OKAY. You will find that as you focus on your mission, you will attract donors, volunteers and advocates who fully understand your mission and lend their passion to your efforts.
About the Author:
Anna Knight is the Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Village Creed. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in Education and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Nonprofit Management. She is passionate about supporting diverse communities through collaboration and dignifying storytelling.