Nonprofit Planning – Vision, Mission, and Values
By Debbi Mallinson, Magic Lamp Consulting

If you have or are considering starting a nonprofit organization, either formally or informally, you were probably engaged in the visioning process. Visioning is the process of coming up with breakthrough, audacious, and innovative ideas when imagining what an ideal future would look like and what is truly possible. One of the most fundamental tasks a nonprofit organization can do is to define its Mission, Vision, and Values. If you have already written them, they should be reviewed annually; if you haven’t, now is the perfect time to gather the board together to develop them.

What is a Vision Statement?
A Vision Statement is a one-sentence statement that defines the aspirations of the organization. It paints a picture of what the world will look like, showing the impact the nonprofit aims to create. The vision defines the desired long-term results of your nonprofit’s work. It is a short, clear picture defining why you exist, it is your sense of purpose and is used to direct and guide the organization forward.

Vision Statement Examples:

Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live
Smithsonian: Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world
Alzheimer’s Association: A world without Alzheimer’s
Oceana:  seeks to make our oceans as rich, healthy, and abundant as they once were

Microsoft’s original vision statement was “A computer on every desk in every home.” Over the past forty years, the world has changed, and the company has evolved.  Microsoft’s current vision statement reflects those changes; it is “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” allowing the company to continue to reach into the future and make an impact.

Vision Statements don’t often change, but if your vision has become outdated, it might be time for an update.

“A lack of vision is like driving down the road without a map. You may be moving forward, but you have no idea of your actual destination.” – author unknown

What is a Mission Statement?

A Mission Statement is different from a Vision Statement. The vision is where you are going, the mission defines how you are going to get there. It provides direction for what the organization needs to do to fulfill its purpose. The Mission Statement is a clear, concise, action-oriented statement defining the core purpose of an organization.

Key characteristics of a Mission statement include:

  • Defining the organization’s purpose
  • Identify its target customers
  • Defining the service
  • Mission statements are short and specific

Mission Statement Examples:

Habitat for Humanity: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.
Smithsonian: To promote understanding of the natural world and our place in it. The museum’s collections tell the history of the planet and are a record of human interaction with the environment and one another
Alzheimer’s Association: The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.
Oceana:  To protect and restore the world’s oceans

What are Organizational Values?

Values are the beliefs, philosophies, principles, and code of ethics that drives business culture. The values create a moral compass for the organization. Values define what the organization believes in and shapes behavior and decision-making. For values to be effective, they must be reinforced at all levels of the organization and be used to guide attitudes and actions. When making decisions, each member of the organization should be asking, does this decision reflect our values?

Core Values Examples:

Integrity, Innovation, Collaboration, Teamwork, Passion

In summary, the mission, vision, and values statements become the guiding forces behind everything that happens in a nonprofit organization, providing strategic direction and informing business strategies.