This topic rolls right along with our development of, “How to Start a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization,” that we have been covering recently. So far, we have covered that in order to establish a nonprofit you need the following:
- Identify a clear need for you cause (i.e. no duplication of services!)
- Figure out what type of nonprofit or entity that you want to create
- Select the most appropriate board members according to their characteristics, skills, and desire.
Now we are moving into identifying your values, and developing a concise and well communicated mission and visions statements for your nonprofit or freelance grant writing company.
If you already have an established board of directors or are a grant writer and work with nonprofits on board development this is definitely an activity that should be done annually to see if you mission and vision is still relevant. This is so important as these are the items that guide your nonprofit the most. Even when applying for grants I always ask my clients if the funding source relates to their mission and vision. If it doesn’t, generally this means that they are just ‘chasing the money’ and even if they get the grant it will detract them from their overall goal and therefore will not be beneficial for their nonprofit.
So exactly what are mission and vision statements?
Your mission statement is what you do today, and your vision statement is what you will be doing tomorrow.
Why are these so important?
Well, for one thing you need to have them when you file for tax-exempt status. The other reasons are equally important. These include:
They provide a guide for decision-making, such as ‘we will only apply to grants that meet our mission’
They clarify your purpose, activities, and mission
They create camaraderie for a common goal amongst board members, staff, and volunteers
They communicate your culture to your community
To get the best missions and visions, first start by listing your values.
Values are a centerpiece for your nonprofit. Core values serve as a guide for a nonprofit when accomplishing a common goal. Values are the beliefs that form the basis for thought, decision, and action.
Sample Value Words
Innovation Sustainability Commitment Excellence
Dependability Reliability Loyalty Consistency Honesty
Creativity Good-Humor Compassion Optimism
Take a few minutes and jot down what your values are for your nonprofit. If you are a freelance grant writer, or looking to become one, go ahead and do the same! This will help drive your company forward and help vet organizations that you actually will work well with!
Once you have your values, then we can move onto the mission and vision statement.
A Mission Statement describes what a nonprofit wants to do now.
Go ahead and fill in the blanks to get something to start with:
NAME OF NONPROFIT does ____________ for ________________ to provide ___________.
See if you can add any of the words from your values to your mission statement. This can help communicate your nonprofit’s culture in a clear way.
Now, the next questions to ask are:
Is your mission statement longer than 20 words?
Could it be less than 15 words? Or even better, less than 10 words?
Does it clearly and simply communicate your message?
The best mission statements are clear, memorable, and concise
Now, the vision statement. The vision differs from the mission statement in that it solves tomorrow’s problem (or three to five years from now).
A Vision Statement outlines what a nonprofit wants to be in the future.
- What do we want to do going forward?
- When do we want to do it?
- How do we want to do it?
- What is the issue that your nonprofit addresses?
- What would the world look like if this problem was solved?
- Do you have a timeline for when you would like to meet your goals?
- Does your vision statement provide a guide for your nonprofit?
- Is it easy to remember?
But, remember to make sure you work with your board of directors to develop impactful but simple mission and vision statements. This is part of our “How to Start a Nonprofit Series.”