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How to Write an Effective Mission Statement

How to Write an Effective Mission Statement

Create an authentic statement that motivates engagement

A Mission Statement is an essential piece of both the communications strategy and business plan for non-profit organizations and cause-based businesses.  The Mission Statement also is important for for-profit businesses because it is another opportunity to articulate who you are and what you do in a way that differentiates your business from your competitors and forges a connection between your small business and your audience (clients, customers, strategic partners, press).

The Anatomy of a Mission Statement

A Mission Statement is a synthesized 1-3 sentence statement that explains your organization’s unique purpose.  A compelling Mission Statement often includes an awareness of the past, present and future.  It states why you are here; what you are doing; and what impact you intend your work to have.  The Mission Statement does not tell the entire story of your organization.

An effective Mission Statement is not a chronological retelling of how you got where you are and where you want your organization to take you.  There is ample opportunity to tell your audience the details of your story in other communications vehicles: the About Page of your website; your company blog; social media; articles in the press.

Use Present Tense

Use simple, direct verbs in the present tense when writing your company’s Mission Statement.

“Our organization is…”

“Our organization aims to…”

“Our organization supports…”

Narrow the Scope to the Most Relevant, Compelling Actions and Claims

The scope of your Mission statement is the intersection of your communications strategy and business plan.  In stating the work that you do in your mission statement, focus on your core business and your core operating principles.  While the intention of an effective Mission Statement is to be accurate over time, not just relevant at the time of launch, leave room for business growth and development in the context of how and why you do the work you do.

Focus on your fundamental goals and your core strategies for implementation.  In looking ahead, articulate your organization’s impact goals, rather than an exhaustive list of possibilities you may consider and directions you may take.

Do Not Overwhelm Your Mission Statement with Industry Jargon

It is acceptable to use some insider language in your Mission Statement.  As a startup or a new non-profit organization, carefully, appropriately deployed industry jargon demonstrates that you have expert knowledge of, and experience in your field.  A non-profit social service organization may include references to activities like “programming,” a term that has a specific meaning in a social service context that will resonate with prospective donors and partners.

Use jargon sparingly, and only in cases in which it is necessary or meaningful to do so: cases in which the insider term is the most accurate to describe your activity and is understandable and compelling enough for your audience to warrant its use.  Excessive jargon complicates your Mission Statement, runs the risk of creating a knowledge gap between you and your audience, and can obscure your meaning.

Stimulate Action

In addition to serving as an information tool (an answer to the question “Why and how does this company do the work it does?), an effective Mission Statement stimulates action.  Use the limited space you have wisely to create a message that shows more than just the facts of who you are but the authentic motivation – the unique motivation – that shapes the goals and activities of your organization.

When the Mission Statement is authentic and compelling, it can be a powerful tool for motivating your audience to get involved in and engaged by your work in the world.  An effective Mission Statement gets your audience on board with your organization’s mission.

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by Elizabeth Eames // Owner of Brooklyn, New York-based Contemporary Communications Consulting, a full service communications and marketing firm established in 2007. Over 10 years experience in content writing, editing, communications strategy, media relations, training and presentations.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.