Said Alice, “…would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
I love using this excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to illustrate the importance of mission statements.
(I first saw it in the book Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations, which, by the way, is a great resource if
you haven’t read it. There’s a newer edition than the one I have, though.)
So, what is a mission statement?
Mission statements articulate your organization’s PURPOSE (ends) and your PROCESS (means).
- PURPOSE: Why do we exist? To what end?
- PROCESS: What do we do (programs)? For whom?
Why is having a mission statement so important?
When an organization fails to clarify and clearly communicate its mission, it will usually either:
- Inadvertently restrict its effectiveness, by too narrowly restricting the scope of its programs; or
- Be unable to prioritize program activities by too broadly defining its purpose.
A mission statement then not only clarifies what an organization does and why it does it, it can also help decide
what not to do. Before adding (or discontinuing) a program, it’s a good idea to make sure your mission is clearly
articulated, understood, and supported by your organization’s staff, board, partners, and supporters.
What are some examples of an effective mission statements?
These are couple of my favorites from the book:
East Bay Habitat for Humanity: Inspired by God’s love, our mission is to create successful homeownership
opportunities (purpose) for families with limited incomes (for whom) by building sustainable housing and
revitalizing neighborhoods (programs).
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce seeks to improve the quality of life (purpose) for the Latino Community (for whom)
by providing leadership and promoting Economic Development through partnerships with other community, business,
educational, and governmental organizations (programs).