Writing a Non-Profit Mission Statement

A mission statement can make or break you.  Without a clear and concise mission statement, an organization can end up getting off course.  Your mission statement becomes the plumbline for your organization to determine if you are still balanced and on target.

A great non-profit mission statement can also establish your brand.  It should convey what the organization is all about and what its goal is.  Everything about your organization should build and feed into your mission statement.

Mission: To make today delicious...for small rodents everywhere. (Borrowed and adapted from Kraft.com)

A mission statement focuses your energy and clarifies your purpose.

Here are some great questions to answer so you don’t make your mission too broad or too specific – Who will you serve? Who will you not serve?  Are you concerned about just your local area?  Or the whole state?

A well-defined mission statement can and should motivate board, staff, volunteers and donors.  It also helps attract people and resources.  

The clearer your mission statement is, the easier it will be for the right people to get excited about your organization.  Including a compelling call to action can bring people in and get them.

A good mission statement can help you get 501(c)(3) status.

With a strong mission statement, you can show the IRS that your organization meets the requirements for tax-exempt status.  It’s a good idea to look at the requirements and incorporate them into your mission statement before applying.

Here are some quick tips:

  • A mission statement should not sound as though it was written by a committee.
  • A mission statement should not be filled with jargon.
  • A mission statement should be written in the language of the audience and should be a call to action.
  • Try answering, “Why did I/we start this organization?”
  • A mission statement should be brief and succinct and repeating it should take no longer than a standard match burning from beginning to end.
  • Bring in lots of perspectives to develop and review the mission statement.  Talk to people in the community, your board, staff and volunteers.
  • Allow enough time to develop the right mission statement. Don’t rush things.
  • Be open to new ideas.  Especially if you’re the one who started the organization, you can get wrapped up in one thought or interpretation.
  • Ask or hire a professional writer to help write it.
  • Review your mission statement frequently.  Times change and organizations may change over time.  The American Heart Association reviews its mission statement every three years but doesn’t change it except maybe every few decades.
For more about writing mission statements, check out this article.

This article was featured in the October 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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