How Do I Create or Revise a Nonprofit Mission Statement?

March 20, 2018

Feet on sidewalk, Passion Led Us here in black textNonprofits are founded for the public good and operate to accomplish a stated purpose through specific program activities. A nonprofit should have a well-defined mission, and its programs should effectively and efficiently work toward achieving that mission. Nonprofits have an obligation to ensure program effectiveness and to devote the resources of the organization to achieving its stated purpose.

The mission of an nonprofit organization is a statement of the purpose of the organization – why the organization exists. Mission statements include what an organization does and for whom. Mission statements may also include why or how an organization does its work.

For example, a mission that includes what and for whom is:
“The mission of Our Town’s Youth Center is to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town.”
A mission that includes why is:
“…to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town to promote positive youth development and prevent juvenile delinquency.”
A mission that includes how is:
“…to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town by establishing community-based recreational programs.”

The mission statement should make clear to all within the organization and external stakeholders what an organization does. At the same time, the mission also provides discipline regarding what an organization does not do. This latter aspect of a mission may be even more important during a recession. If an organization has experienced “mission creep,” with new programs or services added that are only ancillary to its primary purpose, revisiting the mission can be a significant first step in refocusing the efforts and resources of the organization.

At the start of any major planning effort, such as strategic planning or recession planning, revisiting the mission is critical to ensure the board and staff are all “on the same page” regarding the central purpose of the organization, and all plans stem from that central purpose.

Organizations should revisit their mission every 3-5 years to ensure it is still relevant, given changes in the external environment or changes within the organization. Times of dramatic change, such as a recession, may require an organization to accelerate that timeline for review.

 For access to our Mission, Vision, Values Toolkit and other resources, join Maryland Nonprofits today!  

From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy.

The Standards for Excellence® Institute, a program of Maryland Nonprofits, provides the best possible resources to nonprofits nationwide, helping build their capacity to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their communities. Members of Maryland Nonprofits gain access to an online community with an expansive library of resources and customizable templates. Membership with Maryland Nonprofits is designed to help you raise more money, develop your board, build relationships, learn, save on the things you need to run your organization, and amplify your voice in Annapolis. Join today.