Tips for What Should and Shouldn’t Be in Your Nonprofit’s Mission Statement 

Your mission statement says a lot about your organization. More than just words, your mission statement speaks to others about who you are as well as your organization’s vision and values, and can be used in all your outreach initiatives, including your marketing communications.   

What You Should Include

A nonprofit mission statement is a succinct encapsulation of why the organization exists, who it serves and how. According to, the three pivotal elements of a great mission statement are:

  1. The Cause. Who? What? Where?
  2. The Action. What you do.
  3. The Impact. Changes for the better.

At the very minimum, your mission statement should:

  • Include a clear focus of the organization’s values and vision for the future.
  • Describe the organization’s strategy, purpose and determination of direction.
  • Communicate the value the nonprofit delivers, including what groups it serves and how.
  • Sound good when read out loud.
  • Be actionable and evoke emotions.

What You Shouldn’t Include

When writing a mission statement, keep the language clear, compelling, concise and, above all, genuine. Speak to others in a way that will help them better understand your organization’s mission, and stay away from language that comes across as being insincere or sounds like a sales pitch.

When possible, try to avoid:

  • Slang, buzzwords or marketing pitches.
  • Words or acronyms that only professionals in your organization would understand.
  • Language that sounds overly formal and impersonal.
  • Words with more than 12 letters or that are four or more syllables long. It’s better to be brief and to the point.
  • Making nonspecific/general claims or statements such as “making the world a better place,” "breaking down barriers” or “eliminating poverty.” Make sure your actions can be quantifiable. 
  • Writing with a passive voice; for example, “ABC is an organization that helps provide literary services for all” is passive. A more active voice would read: “ABC provides literacy services for adults and children in our community.”

Your mission statement acts as a guide for your organization. In addition to helping you better define for others what you stand for, it helps those involved in your foundation prioritize what it is they should be focusing on. And once you have finalized your mission statement, be sure to review it frequently to ensure it stays current and is still an accurate reflection of your organization.

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