The six questions that will refine your mission and vision statements from ‘meh’ to amazing! Get clear and concise on your culture while creating the credibility that funding sources require.
Do you need to listen to this podcast or read the article? If you, your staff, or your board of directors has to google your mission statement, then, yes, press on.
Why Work on the Mission and Vision?
Your mission and vision statement are essential to creating your credibility and the culture of your organization. If you are a part of a nonprofit, then you know you need these to file for your IRS Tax-Exempt 501(c)3 Nonprofit status. Sometimes you may have just thrown something together to submit for your status, or things may have changed since your organization was incorporated. But, who cares? These are just fancy words, right? Nope. These statements are the backbone to your organization or company, or heck, life. I believe even individuals should have their own mission and vision statements. But that is for another article.
So why are these important? These statements are the backdrop to all your projects and will help direct what grants or funding you go after. It’s easy. If it doesn’t fit in either your mission or vision, don’t chase it. You also need to know what your nonprofit or business stands for and what you are doing and want to do. This is essential once you start getting employees or volunteers because everyone needs to know what the culture of your organization is all about. The problem is a lot of nonprofits say they want to help those in need. That’s all nice and dandy, but it doesn’t really say how they will help or who they will help. On the flip side, some organizations have such long and flowery mission and vision statements that employees need to Google it and then take a long drink of water before reading it. By the end of the paragraph everyone is looking out the window or posting on Facebook. Nobody really heard it. Even you don’t know it.
I recommend looking over your mission and vision statement at an annual retreat. Even if it’s just you. Do it. Re-think it. If you have a team, get input from everyone. Make sure it goes with your logo and your branding. And then, make sure everyone knows it. Post it around the office. Do fun things with it. Include it on your letterhead and website. Make sure it embodies your organization’s culture and it offers a solution.
Okay, Holly, that’s nice, but what is the difference between the two statements?
A mission statement describes what a company wants to do now.
Here are three (not so) fancy questions:
- What do we do today?
- For whom do we do it?
- What is the benefit?
Ex. “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.” (Can you guess? See below)
A vision statement outlines what a company wants to be in the future.
Here are three (not so) fancy questions:
- What do we want to do going forward?
- When do we want to do it?
- How do we want to do it?
Ex. “Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.” (Can you guess? See below)
Pretty easy, huh? See how this is even good for your own life? The benefit of this exercise is that when someone asks you (or a board member, an employee, or even a volunteer) about your organization, you will be able to tell them exactly what you do with a one-punch answer. That’s pretty cool as sometimes we don’t give the best on-the-spot explanations. This will also provide answers to questions about what areas you want to increase in your organization and also stop you from chasing shiny pennies that lead to distractions at best and a loss of funding at worst.
Have a cool project you are working with and want to share? Or maybe you have some more questions? Go ahead and send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The ANSWER: The above Mission and Vision Statements are for The Smithsonian Institute. Did you guess it right? It makes sense, right?