Vision or mission statements are different, but both are tools that organizations widely use. Each statement helps with your strategic planning, but each has a different objective. While corporations often have individual departments write these statements, nonprofits generally have single mission and vision statements.
A vision statement focuses on tomorrow, while a mission statement focuses on today. The mission statement tells what your organization does now, and the vision statement focuses on what you want your organization to do in the future. This isn’t a case of vision vs mission. Both provide meaning and purpose, and one won’t work without the other.
Your mission statement defines your reason for being. What is your purpose? What is the intention of your nonprofit? Who do you serve and how do you do it? The mission statement communicates your purpose to employees, customers, donors and other stakeholders. Ask yourself this question: Why does our organization exist? The mission statement is the answer to that question.
A vision statement is just that; it is your vision of what your future nonprofit will become. Look forward. What is your ideal state? What is the ultimate goal your organization desires to achieve? A vision statement is not only aspirational, but it is also inspirational. It gives your nonprofit direction. A vision statement should challenge employees, donors and your board to be all that you can be. You can ask yourself several questions that will guide the construct of your vision statement. Where are we headed as an organization? What do we want to look like in 10 years time? What ultimate problem are we trying to solve?
The statements help guide the organization internally as well, serving as an anchor in the ocean when you are undergoing significant change or thinking (or rethinking) strategy. These statements should also inspire your entire team to focus on a common goal.
Just for fun, here are some great mission and vision statements.
Mission: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Vision: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Mission: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
Vision: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Both of the above are clear and simple. Both have incredible vision. Tesla wants to be the leader of the century. Amazon wants to be the best company on Earth.
TED has a two-word mission statement: “Spread ideas.” Straightforward. Beautifully simple. Enough said. The TED vision statement is: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.
Along with mission and vision statements, many organizations also write a values statement, which is a statement regarding your culture–the principles that guide and direct the organization. In short, the values statement is your moral compass. Values should establish a standard by which decisions are made, and should help create an internal framework for everyone to follow. Many organizations ponder the ethical issues of their particular industry or niche to help write the values statement.
Give your nonprofit drive and direction by formulating mission and value statements. While you’re at it, add a values statement. With these three firmly in place, everyone will see who is behind the wheel and which direction your organization is going.
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