mission statement describes our organization’s fundamental, unique purpose. It communicates the value NZSAA delivers, and what groups it serves, and how.
An organization’s mission statement should clearly communicate what it is that they do. Many mission statements succumb to an overuse of words in general, but especially jargon. Good mission statements should be clear, concise, and useful. Some might also add “inspiring” to the list of descriptors. We don’t altogether disagree, but we find that including this as upfront criteria often ends up with a Frankenstein that is a part mission, part vision statement (desired end-state), and almost always too long.
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a one-sentence statement describing the reason your organization or program exists. (What you do + who/what you do this for).
What is the Purpose of a Mission Statement?
Mission statements serve 3 primary functions, each geared to different audiences.
Inform External Audiences of What You Do – Your mission statement is a great way to summarize what your org is about, providing context for follow-up information on programs and services.
Focus & Motivate Your Team – Staff and volunteers want to believe in the work they do. Your mission statement should be easy for staff & volunteers to understand, remember, and own.
Guide Strategic Planning & Decisions – By definition, you cannot prioritize everything. Your mission statement should serve as the leadership team’s guiding star when considering priorities and new initiatives.
3 Guidelines for Creating a Great Mission Statement
We have been studying mission statements for years and are passionate about helping nonprofits and businesses alike create truly effective mission statements. We have distilled our experience into the following 3 guidelines for creating a Great Mission Statement.
Clear (Easy to Understand) This is not a time to show off your vocabulary. Use concrete language and keep things simple. Try to keep to an 8th-grade reading level (avoid anything over 10th grade).
- Avg length for the full 50 organizations listed here is only 15.3 words (excluding brand references)
- Avg length for the first 20 organizations below is only 9.5 words (excluding brand references).
- The shortest contains only two words (TED)
- The longest contained 235 words (UNHCR)
Concise (Short & To-the-Point) Don’t fall prey to buzzwords, adjective strings and fluff. Aim for 5-14 words, 20 max. This is often the hardest part, but anything longer and you undermine its utility.
Useful (Inform. Focus. Guide.) It doesn’t matter how short, clear, or cute your phrase is if it fails to inform others about what you do and focus and guide internal team members and decisions.
Mission Statements from Top Nonprofits
TED: Spread Ideas. (2 words)
*Too short for readability grading, but clearly easy to understand.
Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
Readability grade; A. 100% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.
Monterey Bay Aquarium: To inspire conservation of the oceans. (6)
Grade B. 97% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.
Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide (6)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 6th-grade reading level.
Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
Grade C. 84% Reach. 10th-grade reading level.
USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.
Kiva: To expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive (9)
Grade C. 84% reach. 11th-grade reading level.
A vision is a shared belief about the future your nonprofit can create if it achieves all its goals. A vision statement is a concise, clear, well-articulated set of words that describe your organization’s vision to internal and external stakeholders
Their vision is “Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s.”
San Diego Zoo
Their vision is “To become the world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.”
Their vision is “To end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water.”
Their vision is “A hunger free America.”
Their vision is to “Shape the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.”
Life is Good
Their vision is “Spreading the power of optimism.”
The American Red Cross
Their vision is “To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
There can be some confusion when it comes to what the difference between vision and mission statements is. Simply put, A company’s vision statement represents the future position the company desires to be in. Whereas, a company’s mission statement is a definition of the company’s business state and objectives in the present.
eg to protect, enhance and foster the sport and fellowship of fresh water angling