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Creating an Effective Mission Statement

12/06/2022 Alex Bramer

Organizations spend ample time and money creating mission statements to highlight their work and align employees with a common vision. Unfortunately, in many cases, the mission statements become nothing more than a wall ornament or a paragraph tucked into a seldom-read company handbook.

When mission statements fail, it is often attributed to the following:

  • Fuzzy, non-specific language,
  • Interchangeable goals or visions that could apply to any organization,
  • A lack of true, prolonged leadership support, and
  • Poor implementation

Still, every nonprofit organization, big or small, should have a mission statement. Here are three reasons why mission statements are vital:

  1. A mission statement serves as a compass for members, supporters and staffers so they know what the organization stands for and where it’s headed.
  2. It builds loyalty and mobilizes people to act passionately behind a common cause.
  3. It defines the organization’s collective personality, provides clear direction and, most of all, drives results.

But these things are only true if the mission statement is properly written and kept in the forefront of everything the organization does. A great way to accomplish this is by prominently displaying the mission statement on your organization’s website, in its brochures and in other materials.

Here are a few elements to consider when writing a mission statement:

  • Target Audience. This might include members, employees, contributors and the community. The mission statement can be targeted at a combination of these groups or just one of them.
  • Length. Some mission statements are only a single sentence, while others are long and encompass visions, philosophies, objectives, plans and strategies. Generally, it’s best to come up with something that’s concise and easy to understand. It is equally important that it is also actionable — a document your organization will use to make decisions.
  • Tone. Establishing the correct tone involves a process of intentional word selection. If the language is too flowery and cumbersome, a great mission statement may not be taken seriously. Use appropriate language that’s directed at the target audience and reflects the makeup of the organization.
  • Endurance. A mission statement should be able to withstand the test of time and be meaningful for many years. By the same token, a mission statement should be updated to reflect changes in your nonprofit and the larger world. A statement created years ago may no longer be relevant.
  • Uniqueness. Since every nonprofit organization is different, a mission statement should be customized to reflect your organization’s needs and goals. It should speak specifically to who you are as an organization.

To understand how each of these elements applies to your organization, you must first self-reflect as an organization. Perform an analysis of your culture and development. Prioritize goals and objectives. When this process is complete, the mission — and your mission statement’s contents — should be clear. Effective mission statements can be a great asset. When everyone is working together toward a shared goal, the group has a better chance of being successful.

For any questions related to this article, please contact Alex Bramer at abramer@vlcpa.com or 800.887.0437.

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