Secrets To a Powerful Mission Statement

Nonprofit Leadership

Secrets To a Powerful Mission Statement

If you're in nonprofit leadership or management, you know your mission statement is an integral part of running your organization. But mission statements can be tricky. Keep reading and learn how to make your mission useful and helpful to your organization.

Mission statements are never bad on purpose.

Wanna know one thing that can make nonprofit management and nonprofit leadership easier? A kickass mission statement.

Most mission statements are vague descriptions of an organization and a generalization about what they seek to accomplish.

These mission statements are probably hurting you more than they are helping. And I’m going to tell you why.

When I read these mission statements my mind wanders, I don’t get a clear picture of what the organization is about, and it’s not helpful to me...or the organization.

In this article, I want to help you discover the secrets to a powerful mission statement and be able to use your mission statement to move your organization forward and avoid mission creep.

Let’s dive in.

1. What makes a mission statement powerful?

There are countless definitions of mission and loads of opinions on how to write a mission statement...but at the end of the day, your mission statement is a tool you use to run your nonprofit well.

A powerful mission statement is a useful mission statement.

Now you’re probably wondering...what does it mean for a mission statement to be “useful?”

The primary purpose of a mission statement is to be your organization’s guiding star. It’s a strategic tool that is telling you the ultimate destination you’re trying to reach.

When you examine your programs and services and ask “is this mission aligned?,” you should be able to think of your mission statement and answer with a simple yes or no.

Your mission statement should not serve as a marketing tactic.

If you need some marketing tips...check this training on essential marketing concepts every nonprofit needs to know.

Don’t write it to engage your audience. Just make sure it resonates with your team so they can remember it, recite it, and let it guide them. If it happens to be great for your marketing then that’s a bonus, but really, I don’t even want you to think about your marketing while you are working on your mission.

Remember, your mission statement is just one tool in your arsenal, it’s not the end all be all. Let your other tools do their job and let your mission statement just tell you where you’re going.

2. How do we write a great mission statement?

If you remember one thing from this article, it’s this: make your mission statement unique.

Your mission statement is the destination for your organization, but more than that, it’s your organization’s unique destination. And it should consist of three parts.

2.1. Who (or what) are you helping?

Who is your niche audience? Who (or what if you’re helping animals) is your organization aiming to help? Who are your programs and services designed to serve?

Answer these questions as specifically as you can. What sets your “who” apart? Keep coming back to the word unique.

Do you serve a certain geographically located group of people? Or people who are in a certain situation?

After you define your specific “who” you need to answer…

2.2. What is your outcome?

What impact are you hoping to produce? What’s the end result you’re hoping to achieve? Describe what your organization is aiming for.

If your “who” is people experiencing homelessness, then your outcome or “what” could be getting said people into sustainable long-term housing.

Again, think unique and specific.

If your “who” and your “what” are both unique, your mission statement may be complete. But many times we simply don’t have a very unique “who.” And sometimes our outcomes aren’t very unique either.

If you still find yourself with a pretty general “who” and “what”, then it’s time to pull in element number three…

2.3. What is your approach?

I don’t mean make a list of all your programs. Tell me the specific ways your organization is going to achieve your outcome...or any specific way you’re NOT going to achieve it.

Maybe your mission is to reduce crimes for Chicago residents...your “who" is Chicago residents, your outcome is crime reduction. That's still pretty general. So let's have a unique approach.

Your approach could be to accomplish this without involving the criminal justice system or specifically by providing a conflict resolution program. It's either something you're specifically going to do or specifically not do.

My point is this...when you get too general, you lose people. You need to be unique or your mission is not going to be powerful.

This is going to help your team make decisions and let people know that your organization has a good reason to exist.

3. Let’s write your mission statement

Get your team together and do this exercise. On a sheet of paper or a whiteboard, draw three columns.

In column one I want you to write "who" at the top and brainstorm with your team about who it is that you're serving. The more specific, the more unique, the better.

Label your second column “outcome” and get really clear on what your outcome is as an organization. If you get too general, just dial it back. For example, if your outcome is for everyone to be happy and healthy, you’re going to have to get a little guessed it, unique.

If you need the third column, labit it “approach” and add the way you’re going to achieve your outcome.

Once you've done the work of writing out stuff in each of those three columns, then you can construct one or two sentences that capture all of the information. It needs to be clear and it needs to mean something to your team.

If you can’t come up with something that is easy to remember and that everyone feels good about, then send it to a copywriter and let them wordsmith it for you.

4. Final thoughts

At this point you should have everything you need to write a powerful mission statement that describes your organization and the unique impact it hopes to make.

Remember, this is one tool in your toolbox for gaining clarity on who you are and what you are trying to achieve as an organization.

Check out the articticles below to fill out your toolbox.

If you still find your organization rudderless or stuck, I am here to help. Book a free consultation with me. I’d love to connect with you and learn about your organization.

You can also check out my YouTube channel for additional resources on everything from fundraising to DEI to strategy.

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