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How to Create an Effective Mission Statement

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is one sentence that will quickly and succintly tell anyone who reads it what the core values and purpose of your organization are.

It should be written in one of two ways:

1. The mission of XYX organization is to ...

2. Mission Statement: to ...

The Word "Statement" is Not Plural

There should be no exceptions to this rule, but there are. I've seen multi-sentence paragraphs called mission statements. I've seen bulleted lists of items full of semi-colons, with a period at the end; thus, making it technically one sentence. Actually, it was a run-on sentence, because it went on, and on.... This is not the place to go on and on about the purpose or good qualities of your organization. Save that for your brochure, newsletter, annual reports, grant proposals, and donor request letters.

I have seen a few written as "Our mission is to..." This is also incorrect, as formal writing of this type should always be in third person, that is, no use of the pronouns "I, we, our," etc.

Worse, I've seen what is actually a description of the organization referred to as a mission statement. This is not the place to describe your church, school, human-service, or arts organization. It is the place to offer a specific, narrowly-focused statement of the reason your organization exists.

Why Do I Need a Mission Statement?

Your mission statement lets potential volunteers and donors know immediately whether this is an organization with which they would want to be associated. It will quickly and succinctly provide information about your organization's core values and reason for being.

- You will use it when telling others about your organization.

- You will put it in all your organization's brochures.

- It will help you in recruiting volunteers and board members.

- It will help you secure donations, especially corporate donations.

Do some brainstorming. Then narrow down the list to the best 2 or 3 ideas before choosing the one that best represents your organization's purpose.

Do some brainstorming. Then narrow down the list to the best 2 or 3 ideas before choosing the one that best represents your organization's purpose.

Why Is My Mission Statement So Important?

Many of the related laws are federal laws, enforced by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Some related laws will vary from state to state. If you are considering starting a private non-profit organization, a.k.a., a 501(c)3, you should do a lot of reading and research on the subject at both the federal level and that of your own state. Along the way, don't hesitate to pick the brain of anyone you know who has training and/or experience in this area.

After deciding to form a new organization (either for profit or non-profit), one of the first things you need to do is to learn how to create a mission statement. If you have decided to re-vamp an existing organization, one of the first things to do is to update your mission statement. A review of your core values will help you to see if your mission (purpose) has changed or evolved.

You should revisit this process at least every 3 to 5 years to ensure that your mission statement still represents your primary purpose.

A related article of mine is Starting a 501(c)3.

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The word "statement"

is not plural.

— Maria

The most important things are to be brief and to the point while also being accurate; and to use plain, easy-to-understand language. This is not the place to include industry-specific jargon that your potential donors or volunteers may not understand.

Take this poll about mission statements.

Don't forget to present your new mission statement to your board (if you already have one) or to your planning committee (if you're just now forming an organization) for their approval.

Thank you for visiting this page. I hope you find it to be informative and helpful; and if you're starting a non-profit, the best of luck to you.

Again, please read as much as you can of the many resources that are available online and in print while you work through this process. While it can be time-consuming and tiresome, it can also be very rewarding, and of great benefit to your organization. I have provided the basics for writing your mission statement -- now get to work!

© 2011 MariaMontgomery

Please Sign My Guestbook

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on February 15, 2014:

@Villager2013: You're welcome. Thanks for visiting.

Villager2013 on February 14, 2014:

Very helpful to our task at hand. Great place to start. Thanks very much!

anonymous on June 28, 2013:

Good info. I need to work on this. Thanks!

hexadtraining on May 01, 2012:

Very informative lens!!!

Demaw on October 10, 2011:

Some places have "The mission" but no mission statement.

sallemange on September 11, 2011:

A great theme for a lens. I'm on the committee of our local residents association here in the UK. We have just completed a full so called Village Plan. Towns and villages in the UK are encouraged now to formalise these plans to galvanise the community and inform local government where we are heading, what our issues are and the specific actions we are taking to improve our communities. I was able to utilise my business studies degree and commercial experience to craft our mission statement. Its so good using appropriate business methods for social good.

anonymous on September 06, 2011:

Your expertise will certainly be valuable to many who are starting up with a non-profit organization. Your clarity leaves no room for doubt and sometimes know what not to do is as important as the what to do.

Tracy Arizmendi from Northern Virginia on September 06, 2011:

I wish my company had a mission statement. It would be a huge moral booster to refer to on those to frequent "rough days".

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