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Writing a Winning Mission Statement

By Heather Brown
September 07, 2015

A good mission statement is critical for a nonprofit. It helps you communicate the importance of your organization to the world, and it serves as the foundation for fundraising and strategic planning. For too many organizations, however, the nonprofit mission statement fails to accomplish its core tasks. Here are a few traits of effective nonprofit mission statements.

  • Clarity  –  First and most important, is your mission statement written in straightforward language? The central purpose of this statement is to communicate the aims and values of your organization, and so it is critical that potential supporters understand your message. This means eliminating jargon from the mission statement and using simple, declarative sentences.
  • Impactful  – Next, you want the mission statement to sound compelling. One trap that many nonprofits fall into is having a mission statement that too closely resembles similar organizations. Try reading the missions of peer agencies in your region and think about what differentiates you from them.
  • Actionable  – Similarly, do potential supports understand your core goals when they read your mission statement? Does it inspire them to take action? Avoid broad generalities when writing your mission statement. Instead, identify the problem your organization addresses, be specific about what your nonprofit is doing about the problem, and articulate the social change you hope to see.
  • Constantly Refined  – Finally, a good mission statement is never done. That is, as your organization matures, you should continually revisit the statement so that it grows with you. Set aside time at a board meeting every year to review the mission statement, remind board members what you’re all about, and discuss whether revisions are needed.

Though only a short document (for many agencies, the nonprofit mission statement is only one sentence), this might be the most difficult one you ever write. It;s always a good idea to get multiple points of view on the statement as you develop it. Read it aloud to friends and circulate it among your nonprofit’s board and staff to make sure it’s as effective as possible.

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