Writing a great mission statement for your nonprofit organization might seem like a daunting task, but it isn’t as hard as you think.
To help you get started we’ve created this handy guide, which includes a ton of purpose-driven mission statements you can use for inspiration.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
What is a Nonprofit Mission Statement?
A mission statement for nonprofits describes your organization’s purpose for existing. It can also communicate the value you deliver, the groups you serve and your approach to solving a particular problem.
Unlike a vision statement – which describes an ideal future of what you’d like to build – a mission statement talks about how you plan to get there!
Mission statements are usually short, succinct and are often used to inspire donors, staff and volunteers.
Why are Nonprofit Mission Statements Important?
Since mission statements identify the purpose of your work – they’re an important tool to communicate the long-term direction and goals of your nonprofit.
Mission statements provide a foundation for your nonprofit’s programs, communications, organization and culture while also keeping various stakeholders motivated and committed to helping your nonprofit achieve these goals.
- Inspire and motivate staff, board members and volunteers around a single compelling mission
- Guide leaders through decision-making and strategic planning processes
- Help set goals and identify measures of success
- Establish and reinforce shared values, norms and beliefs
Externally, mission statements are used to:
- Inspire and generate external support
- Communicate goals and aspirations to potential funders, collaborators, partners, and beneficiaries
Ultimately your mission statement will help bring together a diverse group of people to further the impact of your nonprofit.
What Makes a Good Mission Statement for Nonprofit Organizations
A good mission statement is one that conveys your nonprofit’s purpose in a brief but clear manner. To create a good mission statement for nonprofits keep in mind the following pointers:
- Make it clear: Clarity is essential for an impactful mission statement. Make sure you stay away from jargon or technical language so people completely unfamiliar with your work can still connect with your mission.
- Be brief: Your mission statement is meant to distill the reason for your existence into a single statement. Keep your mission statements short and to the point as this makes mission statements more impactful and memorable. Here’s an example from the Center for Biological Diversity. Their mission statement is very short: “Saving Life on Earth”, but then they expand on what that means.
- Be comprehensive: While this might look like we’re telling you to do the exact opposite of being brief, the best mission statements for nonprofit organizations balance brevity and comprehensiveness. You want to keep it short but also cover all the key points of what you do and how you do it.
- Inspire audiences: Mission statements are often used to motivate staff and donors – so aim to keep yours inspirational. Evoke emotion and try to make your mission as moving as possible.
- Make it work for you: The goal of any mission statement is to help nonprofits focus and guide their efforts – so it doesn’t matter how long/short, clear or comprehensive your statement is if it fails to be useful.
Finally, it also helps if your mission statement is easy to remember.
How to Write a Nonprofit Mission Statement
Now you know what makes a good nonprofit mission statement, we’re going to show you how to write a mission statement for a nonprofit!
A strong mission statement explains three things:
- Why your organization exists
- Whom it serves
- How it serves them
While mission statement examples might look simple – a lot of work goes into knowing how to write a mission statement for a nonprofit that conveys all this information in a single sentence (or two). Here’s an example from Khan Academy.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to write a mission statement for a nonprofit:
#1 Begin by Brainstorming (With Stories)
Start by getting together staff, sponsors, volunteers, and beneficiaries for a brainstorming session. Include as many diverse perspectives as you can to get the best outcome.
But instead of just asking everyone to throw their opinions into the room – record their stories. You can ask each group to talk about their experience of your nonprofit and the impact it had.
Here are a few questions you can ask different groups:
- For staff, ask: what does it look like when our nonprofit is succeeding?
- For sponsors, ask: what motivated you to donate?
- For volunteers, ask: what motivated you to give your time to us?
- For beneficiaries, ask: in what ways have you benefited from our services?
You’ll immediately have a ton of ways your nonprofit helps different groups and be able to develop a clear idea from here.
#2 Identify themes
Now that you have a collection of stories from your key stakeholders you can begin to look for emerging themes. To make the process easier, pick 4-5 unique stories from each of the groups you brainstormed with to use in the next phase.
In order to identify themes, divide the stories between staff members and ask them to look for specific information in them. This can include:
- Actions/verbs your nonprofit executes: (i.e. informs, influences, provides)
- People your nonprofit serves: (i.e. target beneficiary information)
- Problems your nonprofit addresses: (i.e. hunger, poverty, inequality)
- Services your nonprofit provides (i.e. free food, housing, counseling)
- Movements your nonprofit works towards
You can then use this highlighted information to determine the language and content of your mission statement.
If you’d rather not predetermine what teams should look for – you can read the stories together and discuss common phrases, problems and actions. But this process does take longer!
#3 Begin drafting
Now start drafting your mission statement based on the stories and information you’ve analyzed. You can choose to create 2-3 mission statements and test these out with your audience to see which ones resonate.
Now you have your mission statement draft, it’s time to test it out. There are a few ways you can test the effectiveness and impact of your mission statement. (Feel free to test the multiple statements you came up with earlier – if you can’t settle on one!)
- Read it aloud to gauge how it sounds or how memorable and powerful it is
- Ask people inside and outside the company for their impressions
- Put together a focus group and test your mission statement with them
- A/B test different mission statements on your website to see which one gets the best reaction
Pick the one you like best – and you have your mission statement!
Note: There’s no perfect formula for creating a mission statement!
The method we’ve outlined above is just one way you can go about crafting your mission statement. Many nonprofits don’t follow this formula or choose to focus on their why without including beneficiaries or getting too specific. For example,TedX’s mission statement, Ideas that matter, focuses on ideas over everything else – and it works for them!
Make sure you craft a mission statement that works for you!
Nonprofit Mission Statement Examples
Here’s a few nonprofit mission statement examples to give you an idea of how nonprofits across various sectors have developed their mission statements.
Click on one of the categories below to jump to the section:
- Water and sanitation
- Human Rights
- Animal Welfare
- Multidisciplinary foundations
Looking at examples of mission statements for nonprofits should help inspire you and give you some good ideas of what to write for your own!
Water and sanitation
“Charity Water is a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations”.
“Our mission is to bring safe water and sanitation to the world”.
“Water For People exists to promote the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services, accessible to all, and sustained by strong communities, businesses, and governments”.
“To feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger”.
Action against Hunger
“Action Against Hunger’s mission is to save lives by eliminating hunger through the prevention, detection and treatment of malnutrition, especially during and after emergency situations of conflict, war and natural disaster”.
Bread for the world
“We work to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist”.
Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)
“To provide lifesaving medical care to those most in need”.
March of Dimes
“March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies”.
American Heart Association
“To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives”.
American Red Cross
“American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors”.
Human Rights Campaign
“Working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality”.
“We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice”.
“To undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights”.
“To end the violence and exploitation facing our world’s most isolated and vulnerable communities”.
Save the Children
“To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives”.
“We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy”.
Teach for America
“Growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education”.
“Our mission is to provide a free, world‐class education for anyone, anywhere”.
Room to Read
“Room to Read is creating a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality. We are achieving this goal by helping children in historically low-income communities develop literacy skills and a habit of reading, and by supporting girls as they build skills to succeed in school and negotiate key life decisions”.
“Our mission is to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder”.
World Wildlife Fund
“To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth”.
Environmental Defense Fund
“To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends”.
The Nature Conservancy
“To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends”.
“Uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world”.
The Humane Society
“We fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals”.
Best Friends Animal Society
“To bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets”.
“PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment business”.
North Shore Animal League America
“To provide, promote and advance the humane protection, care, and treatment of animals by any and all means”.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“We see equal value in all lives”.
David And Lucile Packard Foundation
“Improving the lives of children, enabling the creative pursuit of science, advancing reproductive health, conserving and restoring the earth’s natural systems”.
John And Catherine Macarthur Foundation
“Supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world”.
“To share great modern and contemporary art with the public”.
American Museum of Natural History
“To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe”.
“Weaving together the presentation, enjoyment, study, and conservation of the visual arts in order to increase the public’s knowledge and sensitivity, expand its awareness and creativity, sharpen its understanding and caring — all with the conviction that cultural enlightenment and community involvement in the arts can help lead to a more civil society”.
Canadian Museum of History
“To enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures”.
Wounded Warrior Project
“To honor and empower wounded warriors”.
United Service Organizations (USO)
“USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families”.
“Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams”.
Now you’ve had a look at these mission statements for nonprofit examples – it’s time to create your own.
Nonprofit Mission Statement Worksheet
Now that you’re inspired, why not start working on your nonprofit mission statement right away? Download the nonprofit mission statement worksheet below to gather information and structure your process.
Also, if you’re wondering about the best way to place and highlight your mission statement, we can help with that too! Partner Web makes beautiful, worry-free, professional looking nonprofit websites both easy and affordable.
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