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Remember Your Impact: How to Write A Mission Statement For Your Nonprofit
4 min to read ✭ It's time to remember your mission and share it with others by learning how to write a mission statement for your nonprofit! Keep reading to write a mission statement that will convince others how important your mission is.
Have you taken the time to recognize just how amazing your mission is and how you’re inspiring so many people? Well, you should – writing an effective nonprofit mission statement that leaves a lasting impression isn’t easy.
Over time – and especially as you change or expand your services – it’s normal to take a second to look at your mission statement. Whether you’re looking to revise, give it some extra oomph, or you’re starting from scratch, you’ve come to the right place.
What is a Nonprofit Mission Statement?
A nonprofit mission statement is the backbone behind every successful nonprofit. At its core, a mission statement is one to two sentences that describes your organization’s unique, fundamental purpose. It communicates the value of your nonprofit, including who you serve and why.
It’s common to write a nonprofit mission statement and get it conflated with a vision statement. While they both reflect your nonprofit’s principles, a vision statement is your nonprofit’s desired future state (“Our vision is for all youth to achieve their full potential.”), whereas a mission statement outlines your present plan to achieve the vision (“Our mission is to create and support one-to-one literacy programs that fuel the passion of reading for youth.”).
Your nonprofit mission statement is the first thing potential supporters read. It clarifies the focus of your nonprofit and provides guidance for all major decisions – from communications to marketing.
How to Write A Nonprofit Mission Statement
A well-crafted nonprofit mission statement should be succinct and adequately describe why your nonprofit exists. When properly written, your mission statement can be a catalyst for action, whether you’re asking people to volunteer or give. As you’re writing your nonprofit mission statement, here are a few key elements to consider:
1. Work With Your Team
Drafting a powerful mission statement takes a village and it’s important to note that your staff is just as committed as you are, so get their input! When mission statements are created in a vacuum, it’s less likely your team will be bought into the final product.
We recommend bringing together the whole team to note, brainstorm, and converse about all of the current goals and focus of your organization. To increase visual collaboration, use a working google doc or jamboard. If you don’t have the bandwidth or scheduling capacity to bring everyone together in one room, you can always solicit feedback with 1:1 meetings or surveys.
2. Focus on Storytelling
One of the easiest ways to get at the heart of your nonprofit’s mission is through storytelling. Gather stories about your nonprofit’s impact from stakeholders such as staff, volunteers, board members, and beneficiaries. Once you have banked a collection of stories, read through them, highlight repetitive keywords, and take note of patterns. This is helpful content that becomes the building blocks of your nonprofit mission statement.
3. The What, Who, and How
An exceptional nonprofit mission statement should, at minimum, answer the following three questions:
- What does your organization do?
- Who do you serve?
- How will you serve them?
4. Showcase Your Mission Statement
When you’ve got your nonprofit mission statement down, you want to make sure it’s the first thing people see. Display it front and center on your website, across all social media platforms, and on all ad campaigns. After all, this is how people will remember your organization.
What to Avoid When Writing A Nonprofit Mission Statement
To be effective, a nonprofit mission statement should be succinct, clear, and memorable. Unfortunately, all too often, nonprofit mission statements miss the mark by being too general, verbose, or jargon. Here, we’ve gathered some common mission statement pitfalls to avoid.
Being Too Broad in Focus
Avoid generalities and cliches (i.e. “make the world a better place”). Narrow your focus and avoid mission creep by honing in on exactly what your nonprofit does.
Including Jargon & Buzzwords
If your mission statement is full of industry-specific jargon and buzzwords (“moving the needle”, “cutting-edge”, etc.), it can come across as unrelatable and insincere to the general public. It’s best to take those out or replace them with more concrete terms.
Making it Too Wordy
Limit your mission statement to a maximum of two sentences. Cut out the fluff and keep only what’s needed. If it’s not something you can remember while repeating it over the phone, it’s too long.
Using a Passive Voice
If your mission statement sounds passive (“XYZ is an organization that helps provide tutoring services for all”), you can make it more compelling (and concise) by switching to an active voice (“XYZ provides tutoring services to all students in our community”).
Not Checking Reading Level
The readability of your nonprofit mission statement matters when it comes to communicating effectively. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Reading Ease test is a great tool to check the comprehension level of your text. To ensure that your mission statement is intended for general public readership, aim for an 8th grade reading level.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Mission Statements
Below are a few examples of leading nonprofits that have absolutely nailed their mission statements. While they’re all unique, the common denominator among them is that they’re clear, to the point, and hit on the basic guidelines above. As you read through them, use them as inspiration when drafting your own.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area: Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of the youth.
- CodeCrew: We mentor underrepresented youth to be tech innovators and leaders. through practical, hands-on computer science education programs throughout Memphis.
- Charity:water: A nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe water to people around the world.
- Wild: Expands and empowers global coalitions that defend earth’s life-saving wilderness.
- Days for Girls: We increase access to menstrual care and education by developing global partnerships, cultivating social entrepreneurs, mobilizing volunteers and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigma and limitations for women and girls.
- UNRWA USA: Lifts up the voices, experiences, and humanity of Palestine refugees to secure American support for resources essential to every human being, for the promise of a better life.
- BRAC USA: To empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and social injustice.
- JFCS Center for Children and Youth: Building a better future for children with world-class mental health services and public policy advocacy.