ANONYMOUS QUESTION: Writing a great mission statement

My Anonymous Question from Season 2 Episode 1 was: I’m working with my board to write our organization’s mission statement, and we’re concerned that it sounds too program-focused. How can we get started writing an effective mission statement?

I want to preface my answer by first warning you that there’s no such thing as a perfect mission statement. You will always have someone on your board or staff who doesn’t love the final outcome, and you have to be prepared for that.

When you write a mission statement, it definitely should not be about your programs, because your programs are going to have to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of your client population. For example, if you work for a homeless shelter, the demographics of your clients, local laws, and even real estate trends may change and require new programming in the future.

This is why I always recommend that you write your mission statement to explain the WHO and the WHY. WHO are you serving, and WHY do they need you? I recommend you do not try to explain the HOW--as in, HOW you’re going to serve your clients.

In some cases, the HOW will play a part in your mission statement, but the key is finding a balance between setting guidelines for your organization and pigeonholing yourself into one type of program that may become irrelevant in the future. For examples of this, subscribe to my podcast and listen to Episode 1 of Season 2!

Help me decide what to discuss next on the Nonprofit Jenni Show! Visit my Patreon page for information about how you can submit topic ideas, anonymous questions, and nominations for the Submit A Brag segment.