How to Start a Non-Profit // 04

Developing the Mission Statement

Developing a vision and mission statement is crucial for the success of any not-for-profit. The community needs to understand what service the organization is providing or what niche the organization is filling. Some characteristics of a good vision are statements that are:

  • Brief
  • Verifiable
  • Focused
  • Understandable to the community at large
  • Inspirational

A good vision ought to paint a picture in all employees’ minds of where the organization wants to be. It is important that the vision be brief, so that employees can remember it without having to look at a poster in the lobby or refer to a wallet card. Brief does not have to mean stupid, however. Starbucks’ vision is: “2000 stores by 2000”, which is a great example of a short clear vision. (Brown, 1998)

Another important part of any corporation start up (just to keep in mind) is defining the future vision of the corporation. This can be very difficult and risky because it is challenging to predict where the corporation might be in five or ten years; but it is still important to try. “There is a risk that you will establish the wrong vision. Not having one, however, or having one that is vague, makes it almost certain that you will have future problems competing” (Brown, 1998).

Developing a Mission Statement

Over the last decade or so, there has been an increasing number of not-for-profit organizations that are incorporating strategic management activities into their overall operations. Strategic management can be defined as the formation, implementation, and evaluation of actions that will enable a firm to achieve its objectives (Cochran, David & Gibson, 2008). The mission statement has been noted on multiple occasions as being an essential first step in the strategic management process (David, 1984; Staples & Black, 1984). A mission statement is a declaration of an organization’s business or “reason for being” (Cochran, David & Gibson, 2008). This type of message is essential to effectively establishing objectives, formulating strategies, setting goals, devising policies, allocating resources, and motivating employees (Staples & Black, 1984).

There are a few integral steps that you should take into consideration while you are developing your mission statement. First, the orientation, which includes creating a strategic planning task force, reviewing the planning process, reviewing the significance of your mission statement and a final review of your development process. Second, connotative analysis, which includes identifying the feeling you get when you read the mission statement, administering a questionnaire for additional input and any rewriting, if necessary. Lastly, applicability analysis, which includes identifying likely situations where your mission statement will be applied, having outside individuals evaluate a case based on your mission statement and determine whether or not your mission statement can be applied to that particular case (Cochran, David & Gibson, 2008).

Another important factor to keep in mind is the length of your mission statement. It is not a history of your organization, instead is should be a brief sentence that defines who you are as an organization; a “self-evaluation”.

Carefully prepared mission statements have been the source of success for many non-profits. Whereas, poorly developed mission statements have brought failure to others. On occasions, revised mission statements have even turned some organizations around. Keep in mind that a well-developed mission statement can be unifying and motivating, even for the board members (Cochran, David & Gibson, 2008).

Sooner than later,

The Tiny Professional

Brown, M. (1998, September). Improving your organization’s vision. Journal for Quality & Participation. p. 18.
Cochran, D. S., David, F. R., & Gibson, C. (2008). A Framework for Developing an Effective Mission Statement. Journal Of Business Strategies, 25(2), 27-39.
David, F. R. (1984). Towards an integration of strategic management models. Southern Management Association, Proceedings, 195-197.
Staples, W. A. & Black, K. V. (1984). Defining our business mission: A strategic perspective. Journal of Business Strategies, 1, 33-39.

12 Comment

  1. Michele says:

    Although I am not planning on starting a non profit company anytime soon this is very good advice!

  2. Great reference material. Thanks for sharing it. And, a mission statement is good for so many things, including blogging!

  3. That is such great information. I have always wondered how non profits were started.

  4. Heather says:

    Its such a great saying, a goal without a plan is just a wish. I think too many people chalk things up to failure before they even try just from failure to execute. Great points here.

  5. Love the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote. And he is totally right. Also great instructions for making a mission statement.

  6. What a great saying, so true! I so could use this in my blogging!

  7. Ashley M says:

    Love that quote. A mission statement is important because it should serve as the focus and direction in all business decisions.

  8. Donna says:

    If or when I do start a non-profit, I’ve bookmarked this to come back to for reference. Great information!

  9. Very nice tips and information about starting a non profit business. You have used great reference material to make the whole article all the more helpful for anyone who is planning to start a non profit business. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. Liz Mays says:

    I can only imagine how much thought and careful wording goes into a mission statement. Great advice here on it.

  11. Sheila says:

    Very good business information. This is why managing a business is not for everyone. Thanks for sharing

  12. Cindy b says:

    Wow this is so interesting! I would’ve had no idea where to even start!

Comments are closed.