Storytelling Like Bruce—Three Examples of Strong Nonprofit Mission Statements

Most of us know someone who tells a great story. For me, that someone is Uncle Bruce. His stories hook everyone within 5 seconds; by that time we’re dying to know just how he kneaded 10 pounds of schnitzbrot (a German Christmas bread) after accidentally quadrupling the yeast. Without his skilled storytelling, the imagery of his 300 pound self kneading a whopping dollop of dough wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining.

Your nonprofit mission statement needs to tell a story as well as my Uncle Bruce. While the mission statement itself should only be one or two sentences, more and more nonprofits are pairing their abbreviated mission statements with a longer explanation of their origin, cause and future goals.

The nonprofits doing the best job with these paired nonprofit mission statements don’t use the extended version as an opportunity to give us painstaking detail. They take the opportunity to tell their story.

TOMS Shoes

Take TOMS Shoes, a for-profit with the non-profit subsidiary Friends of TOMS. At the top of their page, their short and snappy mission statement clearly tells every website visitor what their nonprofit does.

Scroll further down the page and you’ll find an extended explanation, citing clear examples of how this organization makes a difference. And better yet, it tells the TOMS story.

charity: water

Like TOMS Shoes, charity: water features a very short snippet at the top of their mission page. It summarizes what they do and where they do it. charity: water provides just enough information that website visitors have a clear understanding of their purpose.

The organization continues its story on the same page in a longer section. While it takes up the majority of the page (and perhaps reads a little long), it’s broken up nicely so readers leave with a clear, understandable picture of charity: water’s goals and purpose.


Finally, like charity: water and TOMS Shoes, Make-A-Wish shares a single sentence clearly expressing the purpose and reach of its organization.

And further down on the same page, Make-A-Wish explains how it came into existence, featuring a heartwarming story of a small boy whose last wish was to be a police officer.

Think of your organization’s origins, cause and activities as a yeasty blob of dough like Uncle Bruce’s. Just like TOMS, charity: water and Make-A-Wish, you can knead the details of your nonprofit’s story into something supporters will eat up.


Kathryn Pauley

Kathryn is a regular contributor to the Nonprofit Hub. Soon to be college graduate, she enjoys helping nonprofits understand better how to reach the millennial demographic—cause we are living in a millennial world, and Kathryn's a millennial girl. With experience leading the largest student-run charity event on her campus, she looks forward to bringing her unique perspective to the Hub team every day.

April 6, 2012

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