Over the years, I have worked both with organizations that have needed to create their very first mission statement and with those that wanted (or needed) to update or completely replace their organizational mission statement. All founders and most executive directors and board chairs of nonprofits know (or should now) that a mission statement is required for the organization even to become a nonprofit. That is because the IRS requires the nonprofit to list its chartered nonprofit mission.
Unfortunately, after getting the nonprofit application approved, too many organizations completely ignore their mission statement, except, perhaps, to throw it on their web page or to include it on any fundraising applications. There are plenty of reasons why the Mission Statement should remain central to all that the organization does, both internally and externally. Developing a mission statement is defining for the world your organization’s reason for being. To an extent, it may be an exercise in self-awareness, but there really are people who care about the mission statement and make decisions based upon whether it matches their own purposes and objectives. These include:
- Funders and grant makers: One of the few standard questions all grant makers will ask is for the organization’s mission statement. The organization’s mission statement tells the funder if their money will go toward programs and projects that match their own goals objectives.
- Members of the public: One of the most visited web pages of nonprofits, along with the Contact Us, and Blog pages, is the About Us page. John and Jane Public want to know what the organization is all about. A mission statement addresses their curiosity and answers their questions.
- Policy makers: Many groups are activity involves in advocacy, whether with the public or with law makers. Even 501(c) 3 organizations that have limits upon the amount of “lobbying” they can do are still permitted to meet with lawmakers and argue for legislation that supports their cause – so long as such lobbying does not constitute a substantial portion of their total activities. By providing policy makers with your mission statement, your organization promptly allows the conversation to get to the point, which is what lawmakers usually need to do in their busy schedule.
- Potential board members: Volunteer boards of director often find it difficult to recruit new directors. Without a mission statement, potential board members will find it difficult to justify giving of their time and efforts to the organization.
- Potential members, employees and/or volunteers: Growing an organization often requires active recruiting. A mission statement quickly tells the potential member, employee or volunteer how getting involved can help them make a difference in the world.
- Potential partners: Strategic partnerships can help further the work of any nonprofit. When approaching potential partners, a clear and direct mission statement is your organization’s best tool.
- Regulators (IRS): Lest we forget, the IRS’ 990 tax form actually asks for your nonprofits mission in Part III, question 1. Besides the IRS, potential grantors, regulators and the general public have access to your 990s, so make sure the mission statement is “ready for prime time.”
A mission statement, to be most effective, must be brief (no more than a couple of sentences) in order to be memorable, and it must contain a “hook” (an emotional reason for the reader to care). The strategic planning group creating (or revisiting) the mission statement needs to ask itself the question, “What is a critical problem that exists in the world that we can help to solve?” Answering this question creates the hook. It tells the reader why they should care about your organization. The rest of the mission statement answers how the organization solves the problem.
If your nonprofit has not created a mission statement yet, or, more likely, has not looked at its mission statement for years, it is time to contact Todd R Christensen Consulting to schedule a strategic planning session or some one-on-one consulting. Please fill out the following form now, and we’ll contact you shortly.No Fields Found.