Whether you’re a for-profit company or a nonprofit organization, a mission statement answers three basic questions:

Why does the organization exist?
Who does the organization serve?
How does the organization serve those people?

Mission statements for for-profit companies often also include information about their unique value. However, as a nonprofit, it may not be essential that you are the ONLY organization bringing these services to clients.

Of course, simply listing these three answers isn’t going to do much to inspire people. That’s why it is important to take the time to craft a meaningful statement and revise it as needed.

Why You Need a Mission Statement

A mission statement is not only used to attract donors, staff, and support. It’s also a helpful tool for keeping your organization focused. Without a strong mission statement, it’s easy for random suggestions or funders to pull you in a variety of directions. A strong statement can serve as a “North Star” for your organization and help you make internal and external decisions.

How to Start Your Mission Statement

Whether you’re writing a mission statement for a new organization or revising one for an existing organization, we recommend starting your process by talking to others. Your clients, your staff, your community, your board members all have thoughts on your mission. You can learn these thoughts by conducting interviews, focus groups, surveys, or brainstorming sessions. It is frequently useful to hire an outside communications consultant to help in this process. Because a consultant is not emotionally involved with your staff or your mission, they can often elicit more honest responses from people.

Before writing your statement, consider spending some time developing your value proposition. Your value proposition tells people why they should work with (or fund) you or use your services. For example, Uber’s original value proposition was “The smartest way to get around.” In that statement, they were distinguishing themselves from other ride services such as Lyft or taxi cabs. Knowing what’s unique or special about your organization will help you answer “how,” the third mission statement question.

What Makes a Good Mission Statement?

Perhaps the most important qualities of your mission statement are that it’s accurate and clear. Don’t get caught up in trying to use lofty language. Simple, easy to understand language is often the most inspiring. Make sure you run your revised or new mission statement by employees, clients, and other stakeholders. Doing so will ensure that it’s accurate and meaningful to others.

What Else Do You Need to Write?

A mission statement isn’t the only way that you define your organization. Your website and other pieces of marketing collateral will also help define your organization. You may also want a vision statement. A vision statement is a broad view of how your organization will affect clients and the community. You may also want to create a tagline and several “calls to action.”

Your mission statement is yours alone. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. If you need help crafting your statement or other materials, let us know.