In the nonprofit world, very little is more important than crafting a compelling mission statement.
To for-profit organizations, profit is the bottom line. This clarity helps business professionals make decisions, create and adjust strategic plans, and set appropriate goals. Without a bottom line, it’s hard to move forward with intention and focus.
How does this tie in with nonprofit mission statements?
A mission is to a nonprofit what profit is to a business.
A great mission statement provides nonprofits ethical and strategic guidance, rallies the staff and donors around a common goal, and adds clarity to operations.
We created a list of 22 top, most compelling nonprofit mission statements:
But first, let’s explore what makes a mission statement great…
Mission and vision statements capture the essence of your nonprofit organization.
Sometimes, a nonprofit mission statement, vision statement, values, and goals can get mixed up.
Let’s see how they’re different.
Your vision is the future you intend to create. It’s how you’re going to change the world.
Essentially, your vision is the destination.
A good vision statement answers the following questions:
Vision statements are usually prefaced with the phrases “A world where…” or “We exist so that…”
Your mission is the journey towards your vision. It’s your core work.
A good mission statement answers the following questions:
Put another way, your mission is a short, direct, and compelling way to state your theory of change or the core strategy for your organization.
It provides a link between your every day goals and activities and what you hope to achieve long-term.
A mission statement should be more tangible than a vision statement, have a shorter lifespan, and evolve more frequently.
Your values are the guiding principles for which you stand. They are the ideals you refuse to compromise as you conduct your mission in pursuit of your vision.
Nonprofit organizational values are the highest values that guide your organization’s actions, unite your employees, and define your brand.
They are ideally set as part of strategic planning when an organization is just being set up (alongside mission and vision statements).
Your goals are the handful of achievements towards which you will work over the next one to five years (you choose the timeframe).
Often, they are outlined in your business plan. They’re essential planning tools, as they provide the focus for your efforts and you can use them to measure results.
Set specific, realistic goals for your organization that will help you improve, grow, and accomplish your mission.
Your strategies are the broad courses of action you will take to achieve your goals.
Strategies typically include a clear description of what your organization is going to do to achieve your targets. They’re usually very specific and focused.
Check out this article in which we go more in detail about how to write an awesome nonprofit mission statement. In it, we share a 5-step exercise to help you create a compelling nonprofit vision statement.
Sometimes, nonprofits make their mission statements complex, but when it comes to mission statements there’s a lot of truth in that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Your mission statement is your nonprofit distilled to its essence. It’s like an elevator pitch: concise but comprehensive enough to be understood, and intriguing enough for readers to want to learn more.
The best and most compelling mission statements out there are crystal clear and concise.
Ideally, your nonprofit mission statement should answer the following:
Great mission statements also:
If you’re looking for inspiration, here are 22 examples of different nonprofits and their mission statements.
We face the extinction of one million species in our lifetimes. But there is still hope. The solution to the extinction crisis lies in the expansion of natural habitats in threatened wild places. We must enlarge and protect the spaces devoted to the natural world in order to save the amazing variety of life on our planet – called biodiversity.
Like many nonprofit organizations, Wild Tomorrow Fund combines its mission and vision statements into one copy on its website.
While separating the vision and mission statements usually brings more clarity, Wild Tomorrow Fund managed to combine them in a natural and smooth way.
Their vision is one of a world in which wildlife habitats are expanded and protected, and where existing reserves have the resources needed to keep their animals safe. This is explained with an excellent video that’s packed with emotions, at the same time, shows how they’re making it possible.
Although the video on their “mission” page talks about the “how” in a detailed manner, we strongly believe that including it within the statement makes it even more powerful. After all, watching a video is time-taking. A compact mission statement is one that has the following elements in it –
Our mission is to ____(what)_____ for ___(who)______ by ___(how)______.”
We’re Congolese visionaries and entrepreneurs.
We’ve imagined a better future for our country, one of the most devastated places on earth, and we are bringing it to life.
Surrounded by armed militia, crushing poverty, malnutrition, and government corruption, Mavuno is pioneering a model of grassroots business development unlike any in our region. It is a financially, socially, and environmentally sustainable engine to serve the Congolese farmer.
Congo is our home. And it is also our dream.
The language is emotionally compelling and inspiring. Action verbs and powerful adjectives paint a picture of the Congolese environment in which they operate. It also speaks to who the people of Mavuno are (visionaries and entrepreneurs) and who they’re serving (the Congolese farmer).
There’s a lack of clarity on how Mavuno is bringing about their desired outcome (a better future for their country). If Mavuno elaborated more on what exactly is this better future defined by and how they’re working to bring about it, this mission statement would be taken up a notch.
Our mission is to improve the lives of refugees and the efficiency of humanitarian services by eliminating language barriers.
Their mission statement is short, sweet, and follows the best mission statement writing practices. It’s clear what’s the impact they’re aiming to have (improve lives and efficiency of humanitarian services), who they’re serving (refugees), and how they’re doing it (eliminating language barriers).
Samaschool operated from 2013 to 2020, training low-income people to find and secure independent work. Their mission statement was:
Samaschool is a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on preparing low-income populations to succeed as independent workers. We’ve brought together a passionate group of social entrepreneurs and educators who are reimagining workforce development for the 21st century.
Samaschool’s mission statement isn’t condensed to a single sentence. However, their mission statement is clear.
They’re working for low-income populations (who), aiming to help them succeed as independent workers (what/why), and they do it by bringing together a passionate group of social entrepreneurs and educators to reimagine workforce development.
“Reimagining workforce development” could be a confusing sentence part to many. Additionally, Samaschool’s “About” page could distinguish better between their mission, vision, values, team, and strategies for added clarity.
Hope Initiative Alliance work together with our partners in improving the quality of life of marginalised people globally.
The ultimate goal/desired impact is very clear: improving the quality of life of marginalized people globally.
This mission statement is also concise, which is usually good when it comes to nonprofit mission statements.
This mission statement could be reworked to sound a bit less generic and a bit more memorable. Many organizations could write the exact same mission statement.
Although Hope Initiative Alliance adds a section on their “vision-mission” page called “learn more about our mission” which says a little more about who they’re helping and in what ways. There it’s stated that they’re helping marginalized groups by partnering with various organizations (the types and names) to make it possible.
To provide medicines and health supplies to those in need around the world so they might experience life to the fullest.
This mission statement is short and sweet. It gives some clarity as to the organization’s main work: providing medicines and health supplies.
“Experiencing life to the fullest” seems a bit out of place in a mission statement, given its vagueness.
The mission of The Women’s Center is to significantly improve the mental health and well-being of all members of the community through counseling, education, support, and advocacy.
The Women’s Center statement hits the sweet spot between being to-the-point but still comprehensive.
Their goal and desired impact are very clearly stated (significantly improve the mental health and well-being of all members of the community). We also love that they used the word “significantly” to add emphasis.
The Women’s Center also plainly states their “how” (through counseling, education, support, and advocacy). By reading their mission statement we can see the importance of including the “how” – it explains the work of a nonprofit and it helps distinguish it among many similar ones.
Code for America works shoulder to shoulder with community organizations and government to build digital tools and services, change policies, and improve programs.
We partner with government and community organizations with access to the resources and digital talent that can meaningfully impact some of the world’s toughest societal challenges.
We create change that empowers government and community organizations with the tools and skills to change people’s lives, especially those most in need.
We connect and convene people from inside and outside government, and from all over the world to inspire each other, share successes, learn, build, and transform government systems.
The first sentence serves as an effective stand-alone mission statement. Even if it was read on its own, it would be clear enough.
Code for America works shoulder to shoulder with community organizations and government (how) to build digital tools and services, change policies, and improve programs (what and who).
They also expand on that mission statement to add more detail for those interested to learn more.
Code for America does a great job with its “vision, mission, values, and operating principles page”. These are all clearly distinguished one from another, and even include short explanations for their audience (i.e. “Our vision: The world as we’d like to see it” and “Our mission: How we intend to make our vision real”.)
They use an even shorter mission statement on their homepage (We’re on a mission to make government work in the digital age. Join us.) which also serves as a call to action.
And they even invite participation and feedback at the end of their page!
The three statements following their main mission statement are at times vague. They could be more specific, seeing that they’re an elaboration of the main mission statement.
Faith Matters Network catalyzes personal and social change by equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment.
A fantastic mission statement! Concise and clear. We immediately understand who Faith Matters Network works for, why, and how they help them.
On their “Vision” page, their vision and mission statements are separate and clearly articulated, and their values elaborate more on some of the words used in the statements (i.e. spiritual sustainability, accompaniment, connection).
MISSION exists to inspire everyone who has stared down cancer to live a fuller life, with newfound strength and purpose.
There are no limits.
The use of compelling words (inspire, fuller, stare down, strength, purpose) inspires and evokes emotion. We especially appreciate this since nonprofit mission statements can sometimes sound “too cold” or “professional”.
MISSION also includes a tagline and a hashtag into its mission statement section. We haven’t seen much of this in the nonprofit sector, and we’re wondering if it could prove to be a best practice for inviting more engagement.
It’s not clear how MISSION inspires everyone who has stared down cancer to live a fuller life, with newfound strength and purpose. Including a clear “how” could take this mission statement to a whole new level!
QuestBridge designs and builds programs for talented low-income students to access and navigate exceptional educational and life opportunities. QuestBridge recruits develops, and supports motivated low-income students – beginning in high school through college to their early career – to be successful at America’s best colleges, graduate schools, and companies.
This mission statement is very comprehensive. It leaves almost no questions unanswered.
We have an unambiguous understanding of who QuestBridge’s clients/beneficiaries are, what they’re hoping to accomplish, and a big part of how they do it.
One Degree’s mission is to empower people to create a path out of poverty for themselves and for their communities.
We see a world without poverty, where everyone can find the help they need quickly and easily and can hold their service providers accountable.
This mission-vision statement blends One Degree’s mission and vision quite well. The text inspires and moves, and manages to not sound too cliché or general.
We’d love to understand how One Degree empowers people to create a path out of poverty for themselves and their communities.
To be fair, One Degree has an entire page dedicated to their Theory of Change, but we believe some of it could be included in their mission statement for a more immediate understanding of their work.
Our vision is a world where sexual assault is rare and survivors are supported. Our mission is to create technology that combats sexual assault, supports survivors, and advances justice.
An outstanding combination of a vision and mission statement. They’re both succinct yet impactful. We understand the “who”, the “why”, the “what”, and the “how” – as much as it’s possible in a condensed format.
The rest of the website is similarly clear and succinct. A great example of writing!
We can’t think of anything!
The Caitlyn Jenner Foundation promotes equality and combats discrimination by providing grants to organizations that empower and improve the lives of transgender people, including youth, anti-bullying, suicide prevention, healthcare, housing, employment, and related programs.
Covers all the basics! Upon reading this mission statement we understand the core work of the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation, who they serve, and what they’re hoping to accomplish.
Very little. Maybe a little bit of work could be done on the brevity.
The Caitlyn Jenner Foundation promotes equality and combats discrimination by…
Admittedly, “promoting equality” and “combating discrimination” could be quite distinct in the Foundation’s work – in which case leaving both in would be important.
Imago’s mission is to foster a deeper harmony with Earth by providing educational experiences, creating opportunities for discussion and community building, and conserving natural areas.
An inspiring goal and a very clear “how” and “what”.
From this mission statement, it’s not fully clear which segment of the population Imago works with to foster a deeper harmony with Earth.
The Rare Cancer Research Foundation is dedicated to curing rare cancers through strategic investments and innovative collaborations that facilitate effective research and accelerate the deployment of promising therapies.
The desired impact/goal is crystal clear: curing rare cancers. This statement tells us clearly when the “mission” will be accomplished.
And “curing” sounds much more impactful than “reducing rates”. “Reducing rates” is certainly more achievable, but “curing” is definitely more inspirational.
It’s also very clear how The Rare Cancer Research Foundation is working to reach that goal.
This mission statement is quite hard to remember and difficult to take in all at once, with lots of adjectives sprinkled in. It might benefit from being simplified and shortened, using words that are easier to remember.
The Article 20 Network defends and advances the human right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly worldwide.
Talk about being crisp! We get The Article 20 network and what they’re doing when reading this mission statement.
The brevity is impactful. It’s also memorable. Anyone could remember this mission statement and tell others about it.
Admittedly, this sentence doesn’t include the “how” or “who”, but just below it on the website, Article 20 include an image that does just that.
However, we’re still wondering if the mission statement could be:
Organic Soup Kitchen provides oncology nutrition and addresses food insecurity to a diverse demographic of individuals struggling with the effects of cancer and chronic illnesses.
A solid mission statement! We know who Organic Soup Kitchen seeks to work with, what they want to address, and how they do it.
A key part of what they do (production and delivery of nourishing, healthy soups) is not evident in their mission statement.
Muso works to create a cure for delay because no one should die waiting for health care.
Muso’s mission statement is memorable and to the point.
We’d love to hear how! And who is Muso serving?
We can learn that when we visit their “the model” page, but it would be great to bring some of this to the mission statement.
Make dope water bottles. Give them away. Help everyone take steps to live a little more sustainably.
We love that Dope Bottle have their mission front and center on their homepage.
They use brilliant visuals and typography to make it stand out. The rest of their website is equally as compelling.
They break the usual ‘one-sentence mission statement’ guideline but in a way that works and is aligned to their brand voice.
Although very impactful, this mission statement left us a little bit confused. As it’s formulated more like a tagline (think Nike’s “Just Do It”), we don’t fully understand it unless we read more.
This isn’t necessarily bad, as great mission statements also evoke interest and prompt readers to learn more!
We are a non-profit organization established to help meet the financial needs of Korean-American students seeking higher education.
Their target audience is very specific and we love that they included that in their mission statement.
We also understand what they’re seeking to do for their beneficiaries (help them meet their financial needs).
Removing the ‘we are a nonprofit organization’. It’s unnecessary in a mission statement.
In their mission statement, it’s not clear how they’re accomplishing their desired impact, although the name of the organization helps reveal some of it (foundation). However, there’s a separate mission page on the website that contains more information.
Our mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. Through media, science, and advocacy, we work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.
This is a fantastic mission statement to draw inspiration from. It’s composed of two sentences, but it still feels short enough. Using simple language, we meet Polar Bears International and what they do, what they want to achieve, and how they do it.
We’re not that good! 🙂
Your mission is what you’re here for. It’s likely the reason why your team is there too, and why your supporters donate.
It should be given the utmost attention and care.
Don’t forget that a great mission statement encapsulates why your nonprofit exists, whom it serves, and how it serves them. It needs to be clear, concise, and compelling.
Consider designing your mission and vision page in a way that draws visitors in and makes it both easy and interesting to learn more about your work.
Use photos and videos to tell your viewers the story of your nonprofit and add color to your mission statement.
Your mission statement is part of your foundation. And who’d want to build a house on a rocky one?