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10 Killer Mission Statement Examples For Nonprofits

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Nonprofit organizations, in many ways, are shepherds of missions.

Most were started by individuals passionate about changing the world.

And while many nonprofit organizations need to follow standard business practices in order to succeed, mission orientation is what separates non-profit organizations from businesses.

Donors, volunteers, board members, and employees are all drawn to your organization because they, albeit in different ways, share the enthusiasm about your mission.

All of that to say: Your mission statement is the heart of your organization.

This is why it’s important to intentionally craft a mission statement.

What is a nonprofit mission statement?

A nonprofit mission statement is a one or two-sentence statement describing why your organization exists and what you do.

Mission statements often get confused with vision statements. While these two are closely related, they serve different purposes. 

A vision statement describes “the ideal future”, what the organization is building. A mission statement describes what the organization is doing in the present to create that ideal future. 

Both are vital and one often doesn’t work without the other. They’re often found in tandem, and sometimes even used interchangeably.

What’s the purpose of a nonprofit mission statement?

A nonprofit mission statement serves many purposes. The three listed below are some of the main ones. A mission statement:

1. Describes what you do to external stakeholders.

Your nonprofit mission statement tells people what you do and whom you serve. It’s like a window into your organization. It helps people understand your work. It attracts supporters and (ideally) makes them want to get involved with your work.

2. Motivates the team.

Working at a nonprofit organization can be challenging. When the deadlines are looming and the pace is fast, a good nonprofit mission statement can motivate and rally the staff and volunteers, reminding them why they got involved with your organization in the first place.

A mission statement can help shape the organizational culture, for better or for worse.

3. Serves as the North Star.

Your nonprofit mission statement can help keep you on track, guiding your direction. It can and should influence your decisions around marketing, communication, and fundraising.

What makes a good nonprofit mission statement?

1. Clarity

Clarity is essential when crafting a great nonprofit mission statement. Remove all jargon and buzz-words. Ideally, your nonprofit mission statement can be understood by someone completely unfamiliar with the work that you do. 

Once you’re close to the final version, test your mission statement. Ask a group of strangers in a focus group to read your mission statement and then tell you what they think your organization does. You might be surprised!

2. Brevity

A great nonprofit mission statement is concise. Remove all synonyms and focus only on what’s essential. It’s only natural to want to add more information, but the key to writing great mission statements is keeping them short and sweet. Share more information on your website.

3. Comprehensiveness

While it might seem contradictory to the previous point, the best nonprofit mission statements hit that sweet spot between being comprehensive and concise. While your mission statement should ideally be short, it should still encapsulate the essence of what you do.

Bonus: Inspiring & Memorable

Ideally, your mission statement will also be moving and easy to remember. It should sound good both when read and spoken out loud, and it should evoke emotion. A nonprofit mission statement doesn’t necessarily have to be inspiring and moving, but it certainly helps!

How to write a great nonprofit mission statement?

A killer nonprofit mission statement typically:

  • clarifies why an organization exists
  • specifies whom it serves
  • details how it does it

And all of this in a sentence or two!

It’s worth mentioning, however, that many nonprofit organizations don’t follow this formula. Some choose to only focus on their why, their ​​raison d'être, choosing not to specify the beneficiaries or their approach/methodology just yet.

In the end, there isn’t a perfect formula that works for every nonprofit organization. 

While “Spread Ideas” might work for TED, some other organizations might find this mission statement too vague. Others, on the other hand, find it compelling.

charity: water’s “bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations” might sound clear to some, while others might find this mission statement too generic.

Follow the best case practices outlined in this article. Yet, your best friend will be testing, tracking, measuring, and evaluating. Put together a focus group and test your mission statement with them. You might even want to A/B test with a few different mission statements on your website and see which one performs better.

Now, with that being said, let’s take a look at 10 great nonprofit mission statements.

10 Killer Mission Statement Examples

1. Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide.

They then add:

“We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice.”

*Grade A = Readability Rating

*100% = This text should be readable for 100% of the addressable audience, which equates to approximately 85% of the general public.

What we love about it

This mission statement is very concise and easy to understand. We easily grasp the scope of their work (worldwide). Without the supporting statement, we wouldn’t understand the “how”, but as previously mentioned, many nonprofits choose to omit this in the main mission statement.

2. The Nature Conservancy

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

*Grade B = Readability Rating

*100% = This text should be readable for 96% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 82% of the general public.

What we love about it

This nonprofit mission statement makes it clear who the beneficiaries are (in this case lands and waters, and therefore the rest of the world). It’s a compelling and moving mission statement. The “on which all life depends” highlights the importance of their mission.

3. Khan Academy

Our mission is to provide a free, world‐class education for anyone, anywhere.

*Grade B = Readability Rating

*87% = This text should be readable for 87% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 74% of the general public.

What we love about it

Khan Academy’s mission statement is big and bold, but so is the scope of their work. This mission statement borderlines a vision statement (which portrays more of the world as the organization wishes to create in the future), but it still answers the questions of “what?”, “who?”, and “where?”. The “how” is not immediately clear, but Khan Academy elaborates straight after on their website:

“A personalized learning resource for all ages

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computing, history, art history, economics, and more, including K-14 and test preparation (SAT, Praxis, LSAT) content. We focus on skill mastery to help learners establish strong foundations, so there's no limit to what they can learn next!”

Pro tip: If you find that your mission statement can’t possibly be clear and concise if you elaborate your “how”, then omit it from the statement but add an additional paragraph right after – as Khan Academy did here.

4. Planned Parenthood (California)

To improve our communities’ sexual and reproductive health outcomes through health care, education, and advocacy.

*Grade E = Readability Rating

*51% = This text should be readable for 51% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 43% of the general public.

What we love about it

While it scores low on readability, we find this nonprofit mission statement to be very comprehensive and clear. Their goal is evident, it’s clear who the beneficiaries are, and they even managed to detail how they do it – all while keeping it to one sentence.

5. The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project's mission is to end suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people.

*Grade B = Readability Rating

*57% = This text should be readable for 57% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 48% of the general public.

What we love about it

This mission statement also scores lower on readability than some others on this list, but we still think this nonprofit mission statement is solid. Due to the nature of their work, some of the vocabulary used will be less accessible to the general public. However, their mission statement is straightforward and compelling.

6. AARP

AARP’s mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

*Grade A = Readability Rating

*100% = This text should be readable for 100% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 85% of the general public.

What we love about it

AARP’s mission statement is succinct. We love the use of the word “empower” as it adds to the emotional intensity of the mission statement. Like with many short, one-sentence mission statements, it’s hard to share a lot of the “how”. 

Note: AARP sometimes extends their mission statement to share more about the “how”.

In some other places on the web, they extend their mission statement to:

“AARP’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age, leading positive social change and delivering value to members through advocacy, service and information.”

7. American Museum of Natural History

To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.

*Grade E = Readability Rating

*37% = This text should be readable for 37% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 31% of the general public.

What we love about it

This might not be the shortest and most catchy mission statement on the list, yet we love it because of how clear and comprehensive it is. Almost all main questions one might have about an organization’s work are answered in this mission statement. It might lack a sprinkle of emotional appeal and inspiration, it’s not very vivid. Yet, it fits with their brand voice, which is another key element to consider when crafting a nonprofit mission statement.

8. Solid Ground

To prevent and end homelessness for families with children in the communities we serve through housing, resources and opportunity.

*Grade E = Readability Rating

*54% = This text should be readable for 54% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 46% of the general public.

What we love about it

While the readability and reach scores are low, we find this mission statement to be to the point and clear. The goal is easy to understand, we know who the beneficiaries are and how exactly Solid Ground aims to help them.

9. Oceana

Oceana's mission is to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our vision is for the oceans to be as rich, healthy, and abundant as they once were.

*Grade A = Readability Rating

*100% = This text should be readable for 100% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 85% of the general public.

What we love about it

Oceana gets to the heart of their cause in their mission statement. In just a few words, the nonprofit explains their mission in terms anyone can understand. They combine their mission and vision statements in a natural way wherein both statements complement each other. This mission and vision statements are also quite vivid, the words evoke clear imagery and a hopeful optimism.

10. Vancouver Public Library

Our vision is an informed, engaged, and connected city. Our mission is a free place for everyone to discover, create and share ideas and information.

*Grade A = Readability Rating

*100% = This text should be readable for 100% of your addressable audience, which equates to approximately 85% of the general public.

Vancouver Public Library is another organization that combines their mission and vision statements. The vision statement does exactly what it’s supposed to: paints a picture of the world VPL wants to see (an informed, engaged, and connected city). The mission statement details what they’re doing in the present to achieve that (creating a free place where people can discover and exchange information).

Your Nonprofit Mission Statement is Your Doorway

We know crafting a compelling nonprofit mission statement can be hard.

Sometimes, by wanting to make sure the process is inclusive, we end up with a variety of perspectives or a very long mission statement.

Yet, whenever a nonprofit mission statement is several sentences long, it portrays a lack of clarity around the mission. And this doesn’t exactly inspire the confidence in donors and other supporters.

Remember, your mission statement is the face of your organization. It needs to be clear, concise, comprehensive, and ideally instill confidence, enthusiasm, and trust in what you do.

Nonprofit mission statements are important because of the ripple effect. A powerful nonprofit mission statement evokes emotions and compels others to get involved. Donors are moved to give, and this brings in the much needed resources that your organization needs to accomplish its mission.

Crafting a great nonprofit mission statement is a necessary beginning. But the work doesn’t stop there Nonprofit organizations, in the end, rely on the generosity of donors to meet their goals.

If you’re looking for ways to increase online donations, try GiveForms!

Your supporters can donate using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or bank transfers. With a focus on intuitive, human-centered design, GiveForms goal is to help you increase your online donations. 

When you use GiveForms, you gain access to a plethora of nonprofit-specific benefits:

A customizable donation page optimized for mobile

Embeddable donation forms directly on your website

Donor dashboard to help you search, view and export your donations

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