Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nonprofit Mission Statement in Strategic Planning

Nonprofit organizations operate very similarly to for-profit companies with the biggest difference being they are driven by their mission vs. profit. This week's reading "Simple Rules for a Complex World" discusses how for-profit companies can use simply stated guidelines to help all employees make decisions that will go hand-in-hand with the strategic plan. The nonprofit equivalent to the for-profit guidelines is the mission. All employees should be familiar and dedicated to this mission, and every action of the workday should be working toward this mission (directly or indirectly). Therefore, it is important that the mission statement is relevant to the current market situation and organization. Too often does it happen that a nonprofit's work and role in the community has changed, but the mission statement has not. Therefore, it is vital that the mission statement be reviewed and re-approved for every new strategic plan. In fact, it is best to have this step be first on the strategic planning agenda because everything following must be in line with this mission.

Here are some questions to ask when examining a mission statement.

1.)  Examine the current environment. Does the mission statement still work in this environment and is it clear and targeted?
2.) Does everyone within the organization understand the mission statement and interpret it the same?
3.) Is the mission unique from other similar organizations and are you meeting a need not met by these organizations?1

If the answer is no to one of these questions, it may be time to revise the mission statement. The definition of an effective mission statement is: A mission statement must be a clear description of where an organization is headed in the future that distinctly sets it apart from other entities and makes a compelling case for the need it fills. They must be short, but memorable.

Here are some things to consider when crafting/revising a mission statement.

1.) A mission statement must clearly describe the nonprofit's strategy. Include what makes you unique and competitive. What need are you filling that is different from other organizations - or how or you doing it more effectively?

2.) The mission statement must allow an organization to operate with focus and discipline. Like discussed in the first paragraph, the mission statement is the guideline for all actions. This includes the everyday to the organization altering decisions. It is important for the statement to be clearly understood and not subject to different interpretations. All employees should have a consistent understanding of the mission in order for the organization to have a focused path.

3.) The process of creating the mission statement is just as important as the end result. The strategic planning process is important to refresh the employees and board of why the organization exists and where it is going. The mission statement is at the front of the process and can determine the direction for the rest of the strategic plan. Take your time to revise or create the mission statement and learn from the process. You may be able to apply much of what you learned creating the mission statement in the rest of the strategic plan. 2

1.)  "The Board Role in Strategic Thinking and Planning." Strategic Planning. Create the Future, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <>.
2.) Pandolfi, Francis. "How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Mission Statement." Web log post. Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Harvard Business Review, 14 Mar. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.

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