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Make Your Not-For-Profit Mission Statement Mean Something

February 6, 2024


How many of your employees or clients are familiar with your mission statement? Especially in the world of not-for-profit entities, a mission statement is foundational in strategic planning and aligning efforts of an organization’s members toward a common purpose. Further, it helps to convey the organization’s values and goals to the public, customers, and partners.

Truth be told, many mission statements fail, becoming nothing more than a paragraph tucked into a seldom-read company handbook.

For the most part, mission statements that fail do so because they:

  • Use fuzzy, non-specific language,
  • Include interchangeable goals or visions that could apply to any organization,
  • Lack true, prolonged leadership support, and
  • Are poorly implemented.

Three Reasons Why Your Not-For-Profit Mission Statement Matters

  1. A mission statement serves as a compass for members, supporters and staffers so they know what the organization stands for and where it’s headed.
  2. It builds loyalty and mobilizes people to act passionately behind a common cause.
  3. It defines the organization’s collective personality, provides clear direction and, most of all, gets results.

But these things are only true if the mission statement is properly written and prominently displayed on your organization’s website, in its brochures and in other materials.

Ring Diagram with Vision, Mission and Values

Important Factors

Studies have found that organizations exhibit consistently higher performance when their mission statements:

  • Feature a statement of values.
  • Include a vision statement
  • Specify behavioral standards
  • Identify the organization’s competitive strategy.
  • State an intent to satisfy the needs and expectations of multiple stakeholder groups

Elements to Consider When Writing a Mission Statement

  • Target Audience. This might include members, employees, contributors and the community. The mission statement can be targeted at a combination of these groups or just one of them.
  • Length. Some mission statements are only a single sentence, while others are long and encompass visions, philosophies, objectives, plans and strategies. Generally, it’s best to come up with something that’s concise, easy to understand and actionable — a document your organization will actually use to make decisions.
  • Tone. Establishing the correct tone involves a process of intentional word selection. If the language is too flowery, a great mission statement may not be taken seriously. Use appropriate language that’s directed at the target audience and reflects the makeup of the organization.
  • Endurance. A mission statement should be able to withstand the test of time and be meaningful for many years. By the same token, a mission statement should be updated to reflect changes in your not-for-profit and the larger world. 
  • Uniqueness. Since every not-for-profit is different, a mission statement should be customized to reflect your organization’s needs and goals.

A thorough analysis of your organizational culture and values, will help you prioritize your goals and objectives accordingly. When individuals collaborate towards a common mission, the collective efforts are more likely to lead to success-which is exactly what your not-for-profit deserves in 2024. For additional help with not-for-profit related issues, contact us.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a Clark Schaefer Hackett professional. Clark Schaefer Hackett will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.


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