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January 20, 2022
Perfecting Your Mission Statement
By John Killoran

John Killoran
John Killoran
Writing a mission statement takes a lot of thought and planning, but having a clear, concise, and topical statement will guide your nonprofit in everything it does, including attracting advocates and supporting all fundraising efforts.

In just one to two sentences, your mission statement should encompass your nonprofit’s vision, broader purpose, and funding pitch. That sounds like a lot for one statement to achieve, which is why you need to be careful when brainstorming it. The following will help:

1. Know the Components of a Mission Statement
A mission statement describes the purpose of your nonprofit and what you intend to accomplish in a way that is memorable and easy to understand. Displayed on your website, your mission statement could very well be what drives online donors to hit that donate button.

Every mission statement follows a similar formula and is a few sentences or less #147; some are as short as two words. Make sure you try to answer these questions in your statement:
  • Why? Why does your nonprofit exist? What issue are you trying to address? Your mission should tell a story that supporters will care about.

  • Who? Who is your nonprofit supposed to be helping? Knowing the specific beneficiaries will make others care more.

  • How? How do you specifically take action? How has your nonprofit helped the cause with the actions taken so far?
Now, your mission statement isn’t forced to stay within these walls. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation mission statement is: “We see value in all lives.” That doesn’t seem to be very specific in what the organization actually does, but their core goal is very clear.

Be creative with it, but keep these components in mind as they are the driving points behind every mission statement. You want to excite your donors with your mission statement. It all starts with your nonprofit’s vision and then goes from there.

2. Make Your Statement Concise and Actionable
Keeping your mission statement short is key to making it memorable and your nonprofit relevant. But you also have to make your statement actionable, meaning it should inspire action. This usually refers to donors being inspired to contribute, but another reason to write a good mission statement is to be eligible for grants.

While most funding comes from donations, grants from foundations are a way for your nonprofit to thrive. The grant application process is long and annoying, but there’s a formula on how to navigate it. Seeking a concise yet actionable mission statement, foundations will take a look at your nonprofit and put its application on top of the pile. All you have to do is:
  1. Perfect your mission statement. Once foundations know your drive and plan they’ll be more likely to want to support you.

  2. Look for the perfect grant. Keep your eye out for the best fit. There are grants ranging from education grants to corporate volunteer grants. A lot of nonprofits take advantage of the latter, so check out tips on how to double volunteer grants.

  3. Write your application tailored to the foundation. Make sure you don’t submit the same application to different foundations. These applications should be specialized based on the different grants.
Formulating your mission statement should express your nonprofit’s vision while also inspiring others to believe in you. This is what will call donors to action and help you receive grants from foundations.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Welcome Feedback and Participation
If there’s one place you shouldn’t be selfish, it is when forming your nonprofit. Specifically, don’t feel like you have to write your mission statement all by yourself. Nonprofits are built based on the support of others, so utilize your team’s brain power to help write your mission statement!

This may seem obvious, but creating a culture of philanthropy and inclusivity should go hand in hand. Also, having knowledge from multiple smart people can only help. Establish a team to draft your statement and rely on them to contribute helpful feedback. Having more opinions will only help your mission statement resonate with others.

Sometimes it can also be helpful to ask for some outside help. Don’t be afraid to look into nonprofit consultants if you want a more professional point of view. You can find a helpful guide here.

4. Frequently Review and Revise
A nonprofit’s mission statement is kind of like your public tagline for convincing others to support your cause. It’s like your nonprofit’s way of constantly asking for donations without outright bothering people. To keep up with the times, make sure to review and revise your mission statement if needed.

You never know when this could be necessary. For example, you may need this if:
  • Your vision becomes outdated. Your mission may have been relevant 30 years ago and not so much anymore. Try and think of ways to keep it modern.

  • You have a recent accomplishment. It’s good to include the positive effects of your nonprofit into your statement. If something happened recently, ask yourself if it should be included in your mission.
Don’t feel like you have to constantly change your nonprofit’s vision in order to stay current. Some mission statements are so timeless that you never have to touch them.
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and founder of Snowball Fundraising, which provides a range of fundraising services and tools for nonprofits.

August 2019
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