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How to Rock a Review of Your Nonprofit's Mission Statement

A nonprofit's mission won't always stay the course, which is why regular reassessment and revision of the mission statement is a necessity. Ideally, its mission statement encapsulates the organization's qualities. But for it to be impactful, inspire stakeholders, and meet community needs, a nonprofit's mission statement also must lend itself to certain attributes like focus and guidance, because the needs of a community change over time and can make a nonprofit's mission and its mission statement obsolete and ineffective.

Here we explore some of the reasons for a quality-driven nonprofit mission. We also look at some of the qualities that make a nonprofit's mission statement a guiding force that achieves consistency in decision-making and inspires all those involved in its success.

What's the Fallout of An Ineffective Nonprofit Mission Statement?

All you need to know about the need for flexibility and a sound foundation to a nonprofit's mission is found in a class given by Stanford's Graduate School of Business called "Strategic Management for Nonprofits." In the coursework, students evaluate the effectiveness of a nonprofit's mission statement. By interviewing stakeholders, students find out how well the mission statement is known and applied. Every year for the last two decades, students found that 75 percent of those interviewed had mission statements that were extremely broad, nonspecific, and did not clearly articulate its future vision. Left with a vague sense of purpose, a nonprofit can inevitably reach what's called "mission creep," when nonprofits say "Yes" to funding opportunities that fall far afield from their mission. There are other ways a vague or misdirected mission statement can pose issues.

  • A nonprofit's strategy can suffer without a foundation or guiding principle. It helps clarify the organization's focus and influences every facet of its activities, from hiring to public relations.

  • It can affect communications and marketing, resulting in mixed messages and confusion about your nonprofit and its cause to the general public.

  • A stale mission statement fails to motivate staff, volunteers, and board members.

  • Without a well-defined mission statement, there is no framework for decision-making at every level.

  • There is no consistency across campaigns, volunteer teams, and staff towards one focused and common purpose.

  • A vague mission statement leaves the public confused about why your nonprofit exists, whom it serves, and how it accomplishes its purpose.

How to Review the Mission Statement of A Nonprofit Organization

Besides being clearly defined, a mission statement should guide programs and activities. It also should reflect the nonprofit's values and future vision. A mission statement should be one to two sentences. That's right — a sentence or two that accurately and concisely describe the nonprofit's purpose and activities should suffice. Depending upon the services offered and the audience benefit from these services, some mission statements can be more elaborate, stating the purpose, values, and history of service. Overall, it should make sense to anyone who reads it, whether it's the general public or governing entities. The ideal approach focuses on the nonprofit's true essence, not on its individual attributes or elements.

Every mission statement should be reviewed to consider shifts in public opinion, community changes, or reorganization of internal management. Before considering the following questions during review, decide if the nonprofit's current mission statement is still relevant and if it needs adaption to align with the current focus of its work.

  • Has the organization's purpose and values been accurately disclosed?

  • Has the organization's value to the community or communities it serves been declared?

  • Has the organization's future direction been addressed?

  • Does the mission statement communicate its worth to those groups it serves?

  • Does it define what groups it serves and how?

  • Is the mission statement straightforward, readable, and concise?

  • Have the community's needs changed, and has the organization's mission kept pace with that change?

  • Does the organization's role still address the evolving challenges while remaining relevant to the groups it serves?

  • Have the demographics of the groups the organization serves changed?

For motivation and inspiration, look to other nonprofit organizations with similar services and read their mission statements.  Here are a few to get you started:

The LLF team of skilled facilitators, organizational psychologists, and legal experts have the know-how you need to help your leadership team evaluate your organization's Vision, Mission, and Values for timeliness and relevancy. Vision inspires you. Mission drives you. Values guide you. Call us today.