A nonprofit’s message is everything. What one says and how one says it can either open doors or burn bridges. Thus, crafting a stellar vision and mission statement is critical to any successful nonprofit.
Nonprofits generate thousands of messages to connect with the community and accomplish the organization’s goals. The most effective messages take into consideration, “Who do we want to connect with, and what do we need them to do?”
The “who” might include clients, volunteers, local businesses, individual donors, or foundations.
The “what” might focus on prompting actions such as accessing services, volunteering, supporting a special event, or making a charitable contribution.
A stellar vision and mission statement resonates with the average community member, inspires them to learn more, and compels them to act.
Every message a nonprofit organization crafts should align with two core messages: the vision statement and the mission statement.
A stellar vision and mission statement provides a foundation for all work and words the organization will build upon. A nonprofit’s clients, staff, board, and volunteers are all ambassadors for the organization. One of the most effective “Ambassador tools” is a simple yet powerful message that they can share. In other words, a stellar vision and mission statement!
5 tips for determining if you have a “stellar vision and mission statement”
1. Can your board/staff quote both statements verbatim by memory? If not, why? Is either statement too long or complicated?
2. Does your board/staff always “rephrase” the vision/mission statements? If yes, why? Are the current vision/mission statements “too formal, outdated, unclear, or lack-luster?
3. If a stranger asks you WHY your organization exists, could you respond using only your vision statement as written?
If the answer is no, is it because the statement is worded in such a way that it only resonates with one specific sector of the community? Does it fail to inspire a stranger to engage in your cause?
4. If a stranger asks WHAT your organization does, could you respond using only your mission statement?
If no, is your statement too restrictive or too detailed? What information is missing or misleading?
5. If you share your vision/mission statement with a stranger, does it inspire them to say, “Wow… tell me more!” Or do they look confused and ask, “Ok, but what exactly do you mean?”
Does the “quiz” above reveal that your current vision and mission statements need to be updated? If so, it might be time to schedule a visioning session with your nonprofit’s leadership to craft new ones. To that end, Funding for Good encourages nonprofits to use a messaging criterion we call the “Three C’s.”
All messaging should be CLEAR, CONCISE, and COMPELLING.
Vision statements are designed to INSPIRE, while mission statements are intended to INFORM.
Vision statements describe where we are going, while mission statements explain how we will get there.
These distinctions are essential because they determine how nonprofit “ambassadors” connect with the community. Positive first impressions are essential and most nonprofit ambassadors tend to lead with “what we do” instead of “why we exist.”
To better understand why it matters, imagine yourself in the following scenario:
You are unloading a cart full of groceries for your nonprofit’s food pantry. At the check-out counter the stranger behind you comments, “Wow, you must be feeding an army.”
You might consider three possible responses:
- Dismiss- laugh it off and state, “Yeah, something like that.”
- Educate- You can educate the stranger by slipping your role and nonprofit’s mission statement into the conversation: “Yes. I am a board member for a local nonprofit called Helping the Hungry, and we “address food disparities by hosting a food pantry for families in Davis County.”
- Engage- You can inspire them to consider ways they might engage by leading with your vision statement: “Actually, I’m a board member of the “Helping the Hungry,” and our vision is “to eradicate hunger in Davis County.” We can use all the help we can to make sure none of our neighbors are hungry!
Leading with the vision statement allows you to share the IMPACT your organization creates while leading with the mission emphasizes the “TASKS” your organization completes.
Your vision and mission statement should not just be hanging out on your website. These core messages should be in constant circulation. Ultimately, they serve as the central message to inspire, educate, and engage your community!
Tips for crafting a stellar vision and mission statement:
- Limit each statement to 35 words or less.
- Remember the “Three C’s.”
- Make it “T-shirt worthy.” If each statement fits on a t-shirt and makes a powerful statement, people are more likely to remember and share it!
- Craft a message that resonates with your neighbors, not just donors or a small sector of the community
- Use the attributes listed in the chart below to distinguish your vision from your mission statement.
|Explains WHY we exist
|Explains WHAT we do
|Focuses on the future
|Focuses on the present
|Describes what the community will look like in the future if we are successful
|Describes how the organization engages the community in the present
Finally, challenge leadership to complete this simple investigative homework assignment. Ask each board member to complete an internet search for “the best/most impactful vision or mission statements.” Encourage them to examine vision and mission statements from both for-profit business and nonprofit organizations. They should select two samples that resonate and evaluate what about the content/grammar was impactful.
This simple “prep work” can get the creative juices flowing. Furthermore, it will remind board members that short and simple is the most effective approach to messaging.
Before the board approves new vision and mission statements, consider taking the top two or three options for a test drive! Request feedback from clients, stakeholders, or strangers to determine which “message” resonates most with your community.
You may find some of our YouTube Videos on the subject helpful:
As always, Keep Growing for Good!