What Makes a Good Mission Statement?

Question: What is 141 words (1,031 characters with spaces) that was recently updated and approved by the board?

Answer: A nonprofit organization mission statement.

While the number of words is clearly a problem, it’s also the never-ending desire by boards and staff leadership who believe that a mission statement has to be a litany of all the things.

Our mission is to offer a specific program located in a certain place. We provide assistance, host training sessions, and solve problems. Our curriculum is evidenced based and our programs are proven to be effective. We operate five days a week. Our staff is highly trained and conducts ongoing research. We focus on the social and emotional needs of our participants as well as their health and welfare. We develop skills and build confidence. We do all of this for the benefit of everyone in the entire community.

Here’s a mission statement litmus test.

  1. Has your organization’s mission statement been reviewed in the last three to five years?
  2. Can you recite your organization’s mission statement verbatim from memory?
  3. Can your board, staff, and volunteers?
  4. Can your donors?
  5. What about your participants?
  6. Do you use the mission statement as a decision-making tool?
  7. If a total stranger read your mission statement, would they understand it?
  8. Would that stranger be compelled to want to learn more, or better yet, to donate their time or money?

How did you score? If you had seven to eight “yes” answers, you can stop reading now. If you had a score less than seven, you have work to do.

Mission statements are the highest priority in terms of board roles and responsibilities and we believe that Peter Drucker’s wisdom is the best framework to follow.

The most compelling mission statements are not only short (13 words or less) they clearly focus on “why” instead of “what.”

If we look at the sample above, why do any of those sentences matter? In a complicated world with constant demands for our attention, why would anyone care about your organization?

The key is to get to the heart of the hard work that you do every day. Why do you give your time and talent, and why does it matter?

That clarity of purpose is what defines your organization and the nonprofit sector. Getting the words right, in number and in tone, is essential for board governance and operational effectiveness.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2019-10-28T12:25:18+00:00