Promoting Excellence and Trust in the Nonprofit Sector

How Do I Create or Revise a Nonprofit Mission Statement?

 Lydia Alcock
Created 2 years 111 days ago
by Lydia Alcock

Lydia Alcock joined the Standards for Excellence Institute in February 2017, and joined its sponsor, Maryland Nonprofits, in March 2016. She is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Born in England and raised in New York, Lydia moved to Baltimore in 2008 to earn her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University. Lydia previously worked at Maryvale Preparatory School, Port Discovery Children’s Museum and the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, and also has extensive experience volunteering with an animal rescue nonprofit. Lydia keeps busy exploring the Baltimore region and riding her horse, Ace. She lives in Baltimore City with her cats, dogs, and backyard chickens.
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Nonprofits are founded for the public good and operate to accomplish a stated purpose through specific program activities. A nonprofit should have a well-defined mission, and its programs should effectively and efficiently work toward achieving that mission. Nonprofits have an obligation to ensure program effectiveness and to devote the resources of the organization to achieving its stated purpose.

The mission of an nonprofit organization is a statement of the purpose of the organization – why the organization exists. Mission statements include what an organization does and for whom. Mission statements may also include why or how an organization does its work.

For example, a mission that includes what and for whom is:

“The mission of Our Town’s Youth Center is to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town.”

A mission that includes why is:

“…to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town to promote positive youth development and prevent juvenile delinquency.”

A mission that includes how is:

“…to provide high quality after-school activities for the children of Our Town by establishing community-based recreational programs.”

The mission statement should make clear to all within the organization and external stakeholders what an organization does. At the same time, the mission also provides discipline regarding what an organization does not do. This latter aspect of a mission may be even more important during a recession. If an organization has experienced “mission creep,” with new programs or services added that are only ancillary to its primary purpose, revisiting the mission can be a significant first step in refocusing the efforts and resources of the organization

At the start of any major planning effort, such as strategic planning or recession planning, revisiting the mission is critical to ensure the board and staff are all “on the same page” regarding the central purpose of the organization, and all plans stem from that central purpose.

Organizations should revisit their mission every 3-5 years to ensure it is still relevant, given changes in the external environment or changes within the organization. Times of dramatic change, such as a recession, may require an organization to accelerate that timeline for review. 
For full access to our Mission, Vision, Values Toolkit join the Standards for Excellence Institute. Located in Maryland? Join Maryland Nonprofits for the Toolkit and more!
From the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence code, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your nonprofit organization. The code identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management: Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation; Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Fundraising; and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy. 
The Standards for Excellence® Institute, a program of Maryland Nonprofits, provides the best possible resources to nonprofits nationwide, helping build their capacity to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their communities. Members of the Standards for Excellence Institute gain access to an online community with an expansive library of resources and customizable templates. The Institute also offers nonprofit accreditation and recognition, a national network of consultants licensed to provide training on the Code, and professional volunteer opportunities.