Mission Statement For Non-Profits

Shared Mission Statement

Defining and Communicating Who You Are

You need a mission statement designed for three purposes.

First, it must describe what your program is all about. It must be shared among all who are involved.

It must be a crisp, clear word picture that can be stated in about one minute or less.

As a program director, you will want to demonstrate your commitment to this mission and follow through with conviction. Involving your staff in creating the mission statement will help your staff build the excitement and determination to succeed. Do not rush the process. Brainstorming and creativity take time. Be sensitive to the process and value of getting everyone involved, as well as the end result.

Staff will want to see the results of their effort. This is a special opportunity to build commitment, trust and morale in your program.

Creating Your Mission Statement

Before meeting with your staff:

1. Decide on one central theme: As the program director, let your staff know you will be jointly deciding on the one central theme that informs the public about your program.
2. Ask them to do two things before the meeting:

a. Think of at least three words or phrases that define your organization.
b. Ask them to interview at least two people outside of the organization for their key words or phrases describing an outside perception of the organization.

During the first of two staff meetings to create your mission statement:

1. Prime your thinking by sharing responses: Have each person share their own key words, write them on sticky notes and post to a large poster paper. Share the responses from those outside of the organization, write on different colored post-it notes and post on the large poster paper. Do not worry about organizing the responses yet.

2. Brainstorm: Then open the floor to a brainstorming session to further uncover the essence of your program. Use the questions below to help focus the discussion. Write up responses on sticky notes and add to your poster paper. Narrow responses down short phrases or to 2-3 words where possible.

  • What is the purpose of your program?
  • What is the problem that is central to your program’s concern?
  • Why do you exist?
  • What are some of your program’s key services?
  • What benefits do your services provide for your students or families?

3. Identify key aspects: Now re-organize the posted comments by identifying common themes. Feel free to write on the poster paper if this helps clarify the themes. You will combine these themes and the words expressing them to create your mission statement.

4. Draft a brief statement: You will want to create a brief statement that is easy to understand, non-controversial, and will foster public support. Ultimately, you will want a statement that inspires, informs and enlightens everyone who hears it as to what the essence of your program is all about.
During the “seasoning’ time before the second staff meeting.

5. Continue responding and refining the statement: Post the drafted mission statement where people can add additional comments until the next staff meeting. Over the next week or month, encourage everyone who reads it to give his or her responses.

At your staff meeting to create a final shared version:

6. Agree upon a final version, before going public: Be sensitive to the process and value of getting everyone involved, as well as the end result. Staff will want to see the results of their effort. In writing your final shared version keep in mind the seven circumstances of Hermagoras of Temnos: Quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis ((Who, what, when, where, why, in what way, by what means) Here are some examples of mission statements from literacy providers.

  • To ensure that all adults who live in Texas have the skills necessary to function effectively in their personal and family lives, in the workplace, and in the community. (Texas Even Start)
  • To advance the field of literacy through collaborative research, development, outreach, and leadership to improve practice, expanding access to high quality education and enriching the lives of individuals and families. (Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, Penn State University.)
  • Our family literacy collaborative provides education, information, and support to low income, Spanish-speaking families, furthering their capacity to solve problems and make informed decisions that will benefit their families, their communities, and the workplace. (West Washington County Family Literacy Collaborative, in Cornelius, Forest Grove, and Hillsboro, Oregon)

At later meetings you can revisit your mission to develop a 30 second sound bite, a tag line for your website or in a “ask” in requesting funding. You may wish to consider how the mission affects how staff behave or think of their work. Or whether the mission statement defines the culture and character of your program. This should be a powerful and positive experience for you and your staff.

If you have questions, please contact me at my contact page.