The Executive Director: Simple Guidance for Leaders of Small Organizations

Your One-sentence Mission Statement

Posted on August 4, 2014

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 2.42.09 PMIf you get ten nonprofit consultants in a room and ask them how to write a mission statement, you may get ten different answers. Writing a mission statement tends to be more art than science. Which leads to a lot of frustration, as indicated in the cartoon at right.

A mission statement needs to do two things:

  1. Describe the basic reason an organization exists
  2. Guide key organizational decisions

To me, a one-sentence mission statement does this best. One sentence forces you to focus on the basic reason an organization exists. One sentence provides clarity regarding organizational decisions. The brevity of the statement helps to ensure that the statement will actually get used and not just posted on the wall in a nice frame.

Turns out that lots of other feel the same way. Check out this list of 50, one-sentence nonprofit mission statements.

If you like the one-sentence approach, here is a worksheet that you can use to create your own mission (and vision!). I got this worksheet from the Top Nonprofits web site.

All of that said, a one-sentence mission statement doesn’t do a good job of describing the depth of an organization. With that in mind, some organizations present their mission statement and then follow it up with additional information. Check out these sites to see what I mean:

Hope this helps you in your mission statement efforts!

(Note: In January I wrote another blog post about mission statements: How to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck. The link to the video is well worth it.)