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Nonprofit Business Mission and Vision Planning

Be sure that your business plan describes exactly what kind of a future you’re working to create (your organization’s vision), backed by a description of the purpose of your organization, what you do, who you serve, and how you intend to achieve your vision (your organization’s mission). Although mission and vision statements are important to all business planners, they’re absolutely essential to the people running nonprofits. Here’s why:

  • The vision and mission statements define your organization’s entire reason for being. Look at these two examples:

    • A pharmaceutical company may work to find cures for diseases, but the real reason it’s in business is to make money. In contrast, a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to providing breast cancer treatment to uninsured patients follows its mission to assist women in need.

    • Bookshop owners do what they do because they love books, but they also sell books to earn income. A lending library, on the other hand, exists solely to encourage reading and promote knowledge.

  • They describe reasons why others should believe in and support your efforts.

  • They convey a compelling sense of what your organization is and what it does.

  • They communicate the value your organization delivers and why its work is important.

  • They appear in every grant proposal and fundraising request, and they need to be compelling enough to attract and persuade contributors — who make all your good works possible.

In addition to your vision and mission, you may want your business plan to include your organization’s values by listing the underlying beliefs and principles that guide all your business decisions.

Don’t be reluctant to “go for the heart” when you’re crafting your vision and mission statement. Doing good, after all, is the reason many nonprofits are in business. Donors open up their wallets in part because of that heartwarming feeling that they’re doing good by contributing their hard-earned cash. Make your case an emotional one, and you’ll underscore the importance of your mission — and improve your fundraising success, as well.

Work with your board of trustees to review your organization’s mission statement on a regular basis to see that it accurately reflects the current situation. If the profile of the clients you serve or the causes you champion change over time, revise your mission statement accordingly.

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