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Your Nonprofit Mission Statement Could Use Some Moxie

By Cory Bosket

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“Spreading ideas.”

“Celebrating animals, confronting cruelty.”

“Story by story, we bring you the world.”

What do these statements have in common?

They stand out, engage our emotions, and most importantly, they are remembered. They are mission statements, and it’s not surprising that they represent some of the biggest nonprofits in the country.

All too often, writing a mission statement becomes another box to check off on the way to launching and funding your nonprofit. It’s hastily thrown together from a series of mixed messages and designed to satisfy the various bureaucratic parties involved.

But shouldn’t it be something more than that?

As a nonprofit, you rely on your mission’s ability to stand out. It’s your rallying cry. It needs to draw your audience in, spark interest and inspire action. It should connect donors with purpose and inspire your team to make your vision a reality. Yet hundreds of nonprofits still have long, drawn out statements that are too wordy and frankly too boring to ever make a real impact.

Dissecting the Parts of a Powerful Nonprofit Mission Statement

A mission statement is the organizational anchor for every action you take, and it should provide the motivation and focus needed to elevate your nonprofit to the next level. It should be clear, concise and powerful if you want your mission to have some meaning. And the best ones break down into three simple parts:

Your Purpose

It’s the backbone of why your organization exists, and it focuses on the change you intend to create. Putting it front and center in your mission statement helps your employees, supporters and members get a clear vision of what you want to achieve so they can get it, believe it and get behind your cause.

Your Actions

With your reason for existing out of the way, you need to clarify how you’re gonna to make things happen. Your mission statement should speak to how you’re planning to spark change, and it should use language that inspires your board members, staff, volunteers and supporters.

Your Impact

The most effective mission statements are outcome-oriented. It needs to give your audience every reason to contribute to your cause, and it should help you convert the broad dreams of your vision into more specific, action-oriented terms.

Tips for Writing Your Mission Statement

Writing your mission statement takes some time, but the investment is well worth it in the end. And while not all of us enjoy writing, the process can help you refine your organization’s core values. Here are some tips that can help you get started:

Begin with the Basics

Your mission statement is the cornerstone of your brand, so what better place to start building it than by answering some of the basic questions surrounding your organization:

  • Why do you exist?
  • What do you aspire to do?
  • What makes you different?
  • What do you hope to achieve?

Get to Know Your Audience

Nonprofit mission statements aren’t written for managers and insiders. It’s for the investors in your impact, and they don’t want to see a stiff statement. They want to know right away who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Making sure your mission statement communicates directly to your audience will help them get behind your cause.

Focus on the Ends

Your mission shouldn’t be focused on what you do, it should be about the differences you make. Words like ‘seek’ and ‘influence’ suggest exertion rather than results, while ‘programs’ or ‘education’ signify a type of means rather than an outcome. Focus on the results your organization achieves instead.

Aim to Motivate

Your mission statement is your rallying cry. If you want people to get behind your cause, you need to appeal to their emotions. Avoid throwing around empty, boring buzzwords. Turn your focus toward words that inspire, aspire and create an emotional connection with your board, staff, volunteers and donors.

Short & Sweet

If your mission is buried in a two or three padded paragraph, you’ll lose some power. Your nonprofit’s mission statement is not the time to show off your writing chops or to take your readers through a creative writing exercise. Readers crave conciseness, so give them what they want by keeping things short and sweet.

Your mission statement needs to communicate exactly what and who your organization is. It’s your core purpose, and a straightforward mission statement can provide you with a moral compass to help you keep your mission moving forward. Make it simultaneously short, sweet, specific and stimulating, and you’ll have exactly what you need to keep your mission moving forward.