Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mission-based planning

 By Miraldo Michel

How can nonprofits ensure that their focus areas, their short- and long-term goals are connected to the mission and moving them closer to fulfilling that mission?

If there is any confusion within the organization about where the organization is moving in congruence to the mission statement and may be sidetracked. This is information that should be extremely helpful. Here are a few compiled steps that should be used to achieve mission-based strategic planning. 


Understand why


It needs to be understood why the mission is what it is. The board should without a doubt know that the mission fills a gap in the world (Amy Eisenstein).  It also should know that there is a moral obligation, as a nonprofit organization, to fill this duty in a efficient and effective way. Remember why you started in the first place: "Mission is about a group of people imagining the change they can create and exploring these possibilities together. Through their collective action, they discover something in common within one another, a shared sense of purpose.” (Carlo Cuesta)


There should be regular boardroom discussions about the mission, where you were as a nonprofit before and how much closer are you to obtaining your goal. This is where your long-term and short-term goals are put to the test; short term goals should be met while in the process of reaching your nonprofit's long-term goals.


This is where you simply design a strategy and work toward fulling your mission. Nathan Garber and Associates did a great job of outlining a plan, which goes as follows. 

  • design a strategic planning process that meets your need
  •  review or create a mission statement and guiding principles
  •  conduct an environmental scan
  • identify critical issues
  • develop operational goals and objectives
  • design realistic strategies to meet your objectives
  • develop and review budgets
  • implement your plans
  • monitor progress


It cannot be stressed enough! In every meeting, convention, retreat or even on the walls of the building, allow the mission statement to be in plain sight, so that no one will ever forget the ultimate goal. (Hildy Gottlieb) Hildy does a great job in her post Three Statements That Can Change The World, explaining how to keep the mission statement, along with others, in the meeting room. See  3 Statements That Can Change the World: Mission / Vision / Values   for more details.

Run through

With every decision that the board room makes, the mission statement should be the first question asked in compliance. Will this move work in our missions favor? Or is it steering away from our mission statement? If there is any doubt in the decision, it may not be the right thing to do. 

Relapse prevention

Every now and then there should be a planned retreat. Allow everyone to relax, get away from the everyday stressors of the workplace that can distract someone from the mission at hand. Then refocus on the goal.(Amy Eisenstien) For more information on the benefits of a retreat and how it can help you along your mission way, visit Top 6 Reasons For Having a Board Retreat this Year.

These are a few steps that could be taken in an effort to keep the mission at the forefront of the companies decision making, using strategic planning. If you would like more information on mission-based strategic planning and ways that will keep you and all employees of your nonprofit mission driven, here are a few useful links:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Strategic planning for nonprofit organizations

 By Courtney Kennedy

Nonprofit organizations require strategic plans to make sure that they reach the goals they have set.

According to Richard Mittenthal's article Ten keys to successful strategic planning for nonprofit and foundation leaders, there are 10 steps to strategic planning for nonprofit organizations. Knowing how to plan for a nonprofit organization will have a large impact on the outcome of the organization and how it affects the lives of those it is helping. Following is a summary of Mittenthal's recommendations.

1. Understand your external opportunities and challenges

Since the world keeps growing with new inventions, organizations have to learn to embrace this fact and work with it. There is no way to stop the changes that are happening, so organizations have to work with them and lean on others to deal with the changes.


2. Know the organization's strengths and weaknesses

Every organization has things that help them become great and other things that make them back down. Knowing the positive and negative sides helps the organization improve where they are lacking strengths but focus on what is keeping them going.


3. Have an across-the-board advance

Views from all of the leaders can be incorporated into one mission. Every leader has their own ideas and beliefs. Taking from each leader will give the organization the wide diversity that it needs. If every leader gives something to the organization, then it will be able to reach every type of person that comes into contact with them.


4. Have a planning committee ready to work and focus

The leaders who are on the committee have to have the proper min set before they even start working for the organization. It takes every team member for the organization to reach its full potential. If a team member is not ready for what is in store and refuses to pick up their slack, then the committee is not going to be able to be as successful as they hoped.


5. Have veteran leaders work hand in hand with new leaders

Those who have been with the organization are key components to organization committee. If the older leaders have been through the thick and thin, they are able to help the new leaders not go through it again.


6. Expect every member of the team to give the same level of input

Every leader has to pick up their slack when working as a team. That is why committees are not just one person, but rather a group of people. Every member has something to give to them organization and they have to put forth the effort to make it the best that it can be.


7. Set a mission for the individual organization, drawing from the past

Looking into the past is one of the best ways to make sure that mistakes are not repeated. If the new leaders do not look at what happened in the past, they are likely to repeat past mistakes. If the committee knows what the organization has already gone through they can change the way things are planned and prevent future mistakes.


8. Decide what the priorities of the organization are and how to implement them

Every organization has a list of priorities that they want to make sure and check off. If the committee determines which priorities are the most important, they can tackle the list and make sure that everything will be given the attention that it requires determined by the priority list.


9. Have patience

Change takes time for the organization itself and the leaders to get used to. No one likes change and you cannot get used to it in a matter of days. Change takes a lot of time, so patience is critical when making a new mission. Organizations do not become great within the first week that it was established, they take months if not years to become great!


10. Build leader commitment to the new plan

If some of leaders are not willing to put forth the effort that the organization requires, then it will go nowhere. Leaders have to dedicate themselves and their lives to the purpose of the organization. If all of the leaders are dedicated, follow the mission statement and give the organization their all, then the nonprofit organization is going to impact the lives of many people!

Strategic planning is critical when establishing a new nonprofit organization or when changing the purpose of an older one. Having the change in order will help make the transition easier for the organization and for all involved.  Change starts with the first step and the dedication of the workers.

Here are a few links that go into further detail about strategic planning:


Friday, February 22, 2013

Why creating vision and mission statements should be a team building process

 By Megan Taylor

Writing the perfect vision or mission statement can seem like an intimidating and nigh on impossible task. How do you encapsulate the who, why, what and how of your organization into a brief, but bedazzled mission statement?

Is there a secret formula that will help me craft a vision statement that clearly conveys a sense of direction and purpose, inspires and motivates others, AND is short and simple enough to be memorable? This task is quickly becoming too big for just one person to handle.

So what if we have been approaching the vision and mission statement development process all wrong?

Instead of you having to write the perfect mission statement, why not ask the team to create a powerful mission statement!

Create the Vision and Mission Collaboratively 

By permitting only one person, or a small group of people, to write the vision or mission statement, it prevents the rest of the group from developing a real connection with the goals of the organization. Instead of handing the vision or mission down to employees, and expecting them to swallow it hook, line, and sinker, use this opportunity to engage in team building.

Involving your entire team in the vision and mission statement creation process, allows you to harness the collective talents your organization. By taking different perspectives, opinions, and ideas into account, your organization will be able to create a vision and mission that accurately reflects your team, and by extension your organization’s purpose, direction, and goals.

Creating the vision and mission collaboratively lets your employees know that they are an integral part of your organization and that their opinions matter. This helps to foster trust, cooperation, and respect within your team and can help boost morale!

If everyone in your organization contributes to creating the vision and mission, they will be more committed to vision and mission fulfillment and more eager to pursue the organization's goals (because they are the goals of your employees' too)! Employees that are involved in the process of vision and mission development will feel a sense of ownership and pride in the finished product. This can really motivate your team to wholeheartedly pursue the vision and mission. If setbacks occur, the group will be more willing to overcome obstacles together, because everyone is personally invested in the vision and mission.

If the organization creates the vision and mission statements as a group, your organization is more likely to implement the vision and mission as a group. Your vision and mission statements will be powerful because your words will be backed by actions!

Click here to read more about why employee involvement is so important!

So, this sounds great, but how do we implement it? 

The following list was adapted from John Gabriel and Paul Farmer's Developing a Vision and a Mission in How to Help Your School Thrive without Breaking the Bank and Creating a Mission Statement.

Gather the group

  • Include all stakeholders (employees, donors, the community, etc.)
    • For those who can’t make it, consider using a survey
    • How to involve the whole group if you have a large organization
  • Take a look at these meeting tips!

Share examples of other vision and mission statements

  • Allows your team to become familiar with what these statements look like
  • Keep in mind that the two statements serve different purposes
  • Ask your team to answer these questions



  • Collect everyone’s ideas and thoughts
  • Avoid wordsmithing and focus on the content
  • Don’t get bogged by down with the technicalities (length, wordage, etc.)


  • Is your vision or mission statement realistic?
  • Circulate rough drafts of your vision and mission statements
  • Gather feedback from all stakeholders


  • This process may, and should, take a long time, so don’t rush
  • Have several meetings
  • Brainstorm and then brainstorm some more
  • Don’t be afraid of multiple rough drafts

"The process of creating a mission statement, often as important as the final result, may take several months; but well done, a mission statement can last for years" Francis Pandolfi

The team building process does not stop here!

Now it’s time to put your vision and mission into practice. Do not let your vision and mission statements sit on a shelf to collect dust. Live your organization’s mission every day to keep it fresh, relevant, and active!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Common trends in nonprofit mission & vision statements

By Betsy McInnis

What are some common trends in nonprofit mission statements? 


Consider the following a framework for establishing a strong mission statement. It has been compiled according to three common trends found in nonprofit mission statements.

The following trends are derived from Top Nonprofits' compilation of 50 great nonprofit mission statements that suggests, "the best mission statements are clear, memorable and concise," and have thus been broken down into the following categories:
  • Succinct
  • Simple
  • Special
SUCCINCT: Your mission statement should be a concise overview of your purpose. Be brief. This is not an opportunity to convey everything important to the organization. In only a few words, your mission statement should at most describe:
  • Who you are -- this does not need to be anything more than your organization's name
  • Why you exist -- a short description of what you do
  • Whom/what you help -- mention the group/area you intend to serve
  • Where you work -- this can often be part of the "whom/what you help" portion of your statement, but if necessary, indicate your location
SIMPLE: Your mission statement should be easy to understand, even for those with no expertise. Some suggestions for achieving simplicity:
  • Avoid jargon -- don't use language exclusive to your organization/sector
  • Think elementary -- steer clear of big words; your purpose alone should impress your audience
  • Be clear -- avoid ambiguity; leave no room for confusion
SPECIAL: Your mission statement should embody a sense of uniqueness. Make it memorable.
  • Presentation -- phrase your mission statement so that it encourages readers to seek more information about your organization
  • Do some research -- it is likely that similar organizations already exist; research their mission statements and ask yourself how you can make yours stand out
  • Don't overdo it -- keeping the previous elements in mind, don't try so hard to be unique that you loose sight of succinctness and simplicity

Struggling? Click the following link from Creation in Common for tools in: Overcoming a Disconnect with the Mission.

What are some common trends in nonprofit vision statements?


Consider the following framework for establishing a strong vision statement, as it reflects the three common trends found in nonprofit vision statements. Click here to read some examples.

Top Nonprofits does it again! The following tenets have been derived from Craig Van Korlaar's article, Guide to Creating Mission and Vision Statements and have been broken down into the following categories:
  • Standards
  • Simple
  • Strive
STANDARDS: Your vision statement should be an expression of organizational principles. Emphasize passion! Espouse the following:
  • Values -- ensure that your vision statement reflects the values of the organization
  • Change -- imply growth; reject the status quo
  • Be clear --keep everyone invested, make it motivational!
SIMPLE: Your vision statement should be easy to understand, even for those with no expertise. Some suggestions for achieving simplicity:
  • Avoid jargon -- don't use language exclusive to your organization/sector
  • Think elementary -- steer clear of big words; your vision alone should impress your audience
  • Be clear -- avoid ambiguity; leave no room for confusion
Look familiar? Both mission and vision statements should be stated simply. How they are applied is up to you!

STRIVE: Your vision statement should embrace organizational goals. Dream big! Some suggestions for doing this include understanding the following:
  • Purpose -- without reiterating your mission statement, emphasize the duty of the organization
  • Goals -- think long term; mention what your organization hopes to achieve
  • Ideals -- don't reject what appears unrealistic; remember your vision statement won't be achieved tomorrow!
Could use a bit more guidance? Refer to this blog discussing, Perfect Vision

Monday, February 18, 2013

Distinguishing between mission and vision

By Niranjala Kariyawasam

This post will explain the distinction between organizational missions and visions by providing real world examples along with the benefits each brings to the nonprofit sector.

Misunderstanding this distinction may lead to uninspiring, confusing, and lengthy statements. Use the following as a tool for understanding these differences in your next mission or vision creating process.

In her Psychology Today article, "Mission and Vision - What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter?,"  Jennell Evans says "the absence of, or poorly written vision and mission statements are lost opportunities for:"
"Attracting/engaging/retaining talent;
"Building organizational culture; and,
"Increasing productivity while leveraging all resources to successfully implement a strategic plan" (2010).

Vision Statement

A vision should answer the question, "where is our organization heading?" Think about all that is possible! Take a look at what  Evans has to say about vision statements specifically:

  • "Defines the optimal desired future state-the mental picture-of what an organization wants to achieve over time;
  • "Provides guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years;
  •  "Functions as the 'north star' - it is what all employees understand their work every day ultimately contributes towards accomplishing over the long term; and,
  • "Is written succinctly in an inspirational manner that makes it easy for all employees to repeat it at any given time"(2010).

When creating or revising your organization's mission ask yourself the following:

  • Does this vision inspire the organization's employees to achieve our future goals? (Remember, the vision captures the essence of organizational goals, but it doesn't give us the framework for achieving them)
  •  Does this vision paint a picture of the figure that we want to create for the community we wish to impact?

Top Nonprofit's 30 Example Vision Statements offers the following examples as some effective nonprofit vision statements:

    •    Feeding America: A hunger-free America.
    •    Human Rights Campaign: Equality for everyone.
    •    Alzheimer's Association: Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's.
    •    Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
    •    Oceana seeks to make our oceans as rich, healthy and abundant as they once were.

Visit Nonprofit Vision Statements - Core Values and Mission Statements for more information.

Typically, an organization will have its vision for a lifetime. How does this compare to the lifespan of your vision?

Mission Statement

A mission should answer the question "why does our organization exist" Think about putting your vision into action! Let's take another look at what Jennell Evans has to say about mission statements. According to her, it should address the following:

"WHAT it does;
"WHO it does it for; and
"HOW it does what it does"(2010).
Ask yourself, have we covered the questions above? Click here for further information.

Mission statements are crafted for a one to three year time period to make sure that the way your organization functions still relevant to achieve desired future. Change your mission statement in a way that reflects your organization's priorities and methods to accomplish its vision!

Grants Space's Where can I learn about nonprofit mission statements? indicates that if your mission statement is well-crafted, it will "provide direction and purpose for the organization, motivate staff and volunteers, appeal to donors and other supporters, and provide a means of evaluating organizational achievement".

Below you will find some examples from Top Nonprofits' 50 Great Nonprofit Mission Statements. How does your mission statement compare?

    •    Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors.
    •    Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice.
    •    Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals.
    •    CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world.
    •    The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

See what Bruce D. Johnson has to say about this distinction.

Remember, it is crucial to define the "reason for the existing of an organization"(mission) and "where it is heading"(vision), to align people, processes, services to achieve desired future. It is never too late to define your organization's mission and vision clearly.     

Suggestions for further reading: