What should be at the top of your priority list when starting a nonprofit? Making a kickass mission statement.
Your mission statement is at the core of your nonprofit’s brand. It communicates why you do what you do and how you’re going to do it. You need something that will speak to the masses and inspire action. Here are a few tips on how to create one that stands on its own two feet.
Let’s start with a standard definition. We have to know what a mission is and why we need one. The mission is what encompasses your “why.” For nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, your mission needs to set your core values, beliefs and perspectives. This will strengthen your team’s sense of purpose and help you move in a direction of purpose and action.
Typically, mission statements are viewed as a bureaucratic necessity: something to impress funders and push across communication channels. But in reality, the mission is an extension of your brand. In a study done at Ohio University, they found that millennials are drawn to a strong mission statement.
The article states, “When the [mission] statement is strong, organizations attract workers with a close, personal connection to the organization, and they become deeply committed to the work they do.”
A personal mission statement should include the following things:
- A clear focus that captures your energy and specifically spells out what you do
- Motivational language that doubles as a way to attract people (Think of it as a PR tool.)
- Compelling sentences that leave no room for confusion
But how do you do it? It’s easy to research what your mission statement should include, but when it comes down to it, where do you even start?
- Get perspective. Canvas your community. Talk with your board, your staff and volunteers. Ask questions and find out what is important to the people you’re working with.
- Don’t rush. Take your time writing out your mission statement. This is a critical part of your nonprofit; make sure it’s the best it can be!
- Be open. Once you’ve written a draft, share it with the same people you talked to at the beginning. Be willing to change sentence structure, word choice and even some foundational ideas. If it doesn’t make sense to your immediate community, it won’t make sense to a larger one.
- Keep it tight. Think of this saying: “Once said, word dead.” Try not to be repetitive, and keep it brief. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t take the time to read yourself.
- Review. Review. Review. Make sure you’re always looking at your mission statement and using it as a roadmap for everything you do. Times change, as do people; make sure your statement is reflective of that.
While it’s the most important thing you’ll do this year, it’s also the hardest. Take time to brainstorm, cultivate and perfect your mission statement. Besides the fact that if you plan to apply for tax-exempt status, 501(c)(3), or some other IRS classification, the IRS will use your mission statement to determine if your organization matches its requirements. It’s a written promise to your constituents that you will do your best to inspire action and leave your community better than you found it.
Note: if you think you’ve got something substantial on paper, check out some good—and not so good—examples of mission statements.