People working on a mission statementHow to Develop a Great Mission Statement

Is it time to write or revise your mission statement? The following outline will give you a start on getting all your ideas down and working toward those few but essential words you need.

What is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement is a philosophical statement about the human or societal situation your organization addresses. It shares your purpose.

How Will a Good Mission Statement Help Your Organization?

If used well, it will:

  • Educate you, newcomers, volunteers, and the community
  • Tell you what you need to do to thrive
  • Attract supporters and funders, potentially even large, unexpected windfall gifts, and
  • Help you evaluate and initiate activities and set priorities for the investment of your limited resources.

This last item is often the most critical. For example, during decision-making, ask, “Which choice brings us closer to achieving our mission? Why?” When resources are limited, you can use the mission statement in this way to help you say “no” to exciting but off-target opportunities.

Questions to Ask While Developing a Mission Statement

Select some of the following questions to ask during a mission statement session:

Why do we exist? Why do we do what we do? 
  1. What about this organization is important?
  2. If the organization didn’t exist, what would the world miss?
  3. What do we want to achieve?
  4. To what needs does this group respond?
  5. Why did you join this group?
  6. In the end, what must this group be remembered?
  7. From the organization’s perspective, what challenges face the community today?
  8. What business are we in? What business do we want to be in?

So, What Makes a Great Mission Statement?

In all honesty–work. Good mission statements are short, memorable, and inspiring. Usually, they combine group discussion, individual wordplay, and time to percolate. Once you have input from others and have narrowed your words to a handful of choices, place these ideas on stickies. Post them around your work area to look at for several days, stopping to replace terms and rewrite them as you move through your workday.

Using these statement starters can prove helpful:

Our organization …

  • Increases
  • Decrease
  • Eliminates
  • Prevents
  • Inspires

Good mission statements result in the following:

  1. Excitement
  2. The need for immediate action toward a shared goal.
  3. The anticipation of future accomplishment.
  4. When fulfilled, meaning for individuals, the community, and the world.
  5. Memorization in fewer than 15 minutes.


Here are some examples to inspire you; notice how succinct and inspiring they are:

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
To end the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis.

Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Florida Arts Council
More art for more people more of the time.

National Partnership for Women and Families (Yield Giving: $8 million grant)

To achieve health equity and secure a fair and just region through leadership, advocacy, and resources.

Meals on Wheels of Manatee (Yield Giving: Disclosure delayed)

To assist individuals to live independently by providing nutrition and caring, supportive services.

An emergency room (as reported by Peter Drucker)
To give assurance to the afflicted.
(This organization developed a corresponding goal to serve everyone within one minute.)

The Nature Conservancy
To preserve plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and water they need to survive.

The Salvation Army
To make citizens of the rejected.

Christian Congregation (with thanks to George Villa)
To know Christ and make Christ known.


For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

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