Living by Your Nonprofit’s Mission

By Stan Hutton, Frances N. Phillips

You’ve brainstormed, drafted, and refined a short statement that clearly identifies your nonprofit organization’s mission. Congratulations! Now that you’ve put considerable thought and time into this exercise, what are you going to do with it? You’ll use your mission statement in practical ways, of course. For instance, you’ll likely

  • Incorporate its description of the organization’s purpose in your articles of incorporation.
  • Include it in brochures, on your website, and in other marketing materials.
  • Use it to help complete IRS Form 990 — the tax statement you’ll file in one form or another each year.

Your mission statement also resembles the pin that holds the needle of a compass: You’ll use it to chart your organization’s direction. Here are some examples:

  • When you have to make a decision about creating new programs or setting priorities, your mission statement should guide you as to whether they’re appropriate for your organization.
  • When your board and staff sit down to create a new three-year plan, they first need to revisit and commit to the mission statement. All other discussion about setting goals and refining programs should be tested for appropriateness against the statement.
  • When you need to cut your budget and eliminate programs or activities, your mission statement should guide you to protect those programs that are core to your organization’s purpose and vision.