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How To Write Mission and Vision Statements That Stand the Test of Time

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How To Write Mission and Vision Statements That Stand the Test of Time

As a nonprofit, your mission and vision statements are two crucial assets to your organization. They’re fundamental to why your organization exists and how it operates. And while these statements can and should work together, they are different from each other in both scope and purpose.

A nonprofit leader stacks three blocks on top of each other. From the top, they say MISSION, VISION and VALUE.


A vision statement describes your ideal future. It paints a picture of the reality you want to see, and serves as a reminder of what your organization is ultimately working toward.

A nonprofit mission statement addresses the practical side of your operations. It identifies your target demographic, the service you provide, and the manner by which you provide it. 

So how do you write these essential statements? What’s the difference between writing them as a new nonprofit and trying to rewrite them after years of operation?

Well, there’s good news: in both cases, the process can look pretty similar.

How Do I Start Writing a Nonprofit Mission or Vision Statement?

Who you are as an organization should come across loud and clear in both your mission and vision statements. If you know who you are and can communicate that clearly and concisely, you’ll be in great shape.

But no matter where you are in the process, external feedback will be crucial. And for both new and established organizations, your community will be the most valuable resource. So host a meeting or focus group where you can ask targeted questions.

If your organization is new, questions for your community will revolve around the need you’ve identified. Where are the gaps in existing services? Is your proposed programming adding real value to the community, or is there another approach that might work better? 

Established organizations will certainly want to explore how community need has evolved over time, but the primary focus will be on service delivery. Where are your programs falling short? How must they pivot to continue fulfilling their purpose? 

Writing the Vision Statement

Any feedback you receive will need to be parsed into a concise vision statement that resonates with both internal and external stakeholders.

Your vision statement should check the following boxes.

IT’S ASPIRATIONAL.

Your vision isn’t that you want to fill your afterschool programs – it’s that you want the children in your community to have support systems that help them develop a healthy sense of self and succeed academically and beyond, for example.

IT’S ALIGNED.

Your vision statement should reflect your organization’s values, location, and community. It should be relevant to your community’s wants and needs, as well as your organization’s history and leadership.

IT’S ACTIONABLE.

Remember that your vision statement reflects your organization’s work – it doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list of the changes you want to see in the world! Dream big, but keep it relevant.

IT’S COMPELLING.

Use bold, inspiring language to describe your vision. You want stakeholders and potential supporters to feel engaged and excited about the work you’re doing. Show them the world you’re imagining.

Writing the Mission Statement

While your vision statement is somewhat of a broad, pie-in-the-sky concept, your mission statement is what should guide your day-to-day work. This is where you define the big steps you’ll take to make your vision a reality. 

If your vision is for young people in your community to develop a healthy sense of self and succeed academically, then your mission statement will clarify your contribution. For example, maybe you’ll provide after-school programs in your city to support young people’s development and academic achievement through tutoring and enrichment opportunities.

Include specifics, like your location, timeline, and measurable outcomes.

Remember that your mission statement is an elevator pitch – it’s short, descriptive, and memorable. You want your mission to complement your vision statement and drive home the how.

Mission and Vision Statements Guide Your Work

A solid mission and vision statement will carry your organization through for years to come. They’ll serve as the basis for your programs, evaluation, and case for support, as well.

Take your time defining your organization’s goals and core values. Seek quality feedback from supporters and community members, and don’t be afraid to edit, edit, edit! 

Join NPO Centric’s Membership program for the full ebook on writing effective mission and vision statements!