How to Create Mission and Vision Statements that are Sticky

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While these words are common-place in both the nonprofit sector and the business world, there is often a lot of confusion around what they actually mean. Without clarity, it can be challenging to know if your organization truly knows what it does and even more challenging for the market to understand why they should do business with you or donate to your organization. Remember, a confused mind never buys. So allow me to explain each of these as well as the organization's purpose and core values.

Vision—The vision of an organization is the over-arching goal or thirty thousand foot view that you are trying to accomplish. If you were to achieve this, you would put yourself out of business. The vision is not about fixing the whole world, it’s about fixing or improving a segment of it. It should be short and concise. It should be one sentence or phrase.

Mission—The mission of an organization is much more tactical in nature. If you are trying to make a decision, you should be able to look at the mission statement and instantly know whether or not you should do the decision you’re trying to make. The mission should be specific and broad at the same time. If a mission is too specific, the organization will outgrow it too quickly. It should be no more than two sentences. The shorter the better because it will be easier for people to remember it.

PurposeThe purpose of an organization is basically a positioning statement to the market. It is very specific and tactical in nature. Some organizations will have a mission OR purpose, while some will have both. They are very similar so it’s more about the wording and the level of detail that you connect with. It should be no more than two sentences. The shorter the better because it will be easier for people to remember it.

Core ValuesThe core values of an organization are about how you as an organization hold yourself accountable and how you create the operations of the organization. They have nothing to do with the market other than allowing them to see what is important to you. It is very easy to get carried away and have a really long list of these. It is actually better to have fewer so it is easier to remember and implement them. It is also recommended that you define each core value so there is no confusion around what each word means.

These statements are intended to unify a team, a brand, and its market. Don't waste that power by simply letting them be words on paper or words mounted to the wall. Once you create these, build them into your culture and everyday habits--it's called living your brand.