Mission & Vision Development

What it is

When we help organizations develop mission and vision statements, people often ask about the difference between the two. This question is not surprising because the concepts of mission and vision are closely related. An organization’s identity is intertwined with its sense of what it intends to become. What has shaped the organization in the past influences how it will envision the future.

A mission statement communicates the organization’s identity. It proclaims the reason the organization exists. It justifies the space the organization occupies and the resources it commands in the community. A mission statement is shaped by the history of the organization; it inspires loyalty and willingness to invest time, energy, and money in the organization. It is reinforced by symbols, programs, and past accomplishments that are replayed year after year and are changed only with great care.

A vision statement, on the other hand, is a compelling message that energizes an organization and motivates involvement of key leaders. Vision is a sense of direction. Vision is the energizing picture of the future that pulls the organization forward. It looks ahead to what the organization will become — a guiding star for decision-making. Vision statements may or may not be used in marketing messages but are always used internally to focus staff and board efforts.

When you need it

While the mission and vision statements serve somewhat different functions, both are essential to external and internal communication. Externally, these statements are indispensable in grant applications, fund raising messages, and marketing and communication pieces. Internally, the statements are crucial in decision-making, budgeting, staff allocations, team-building, and organizational focus. Organizations should examine their mission/vision statements when:

  • Engaging in a strategic planning process.
  • Board members and staff cannot reliably state the organization’s mission and vision.
  • Leaders are unable to advocate persuasively for the organization because they cannot clearly communicate the mission and vision.
  • Program decisions are made without being anchored to the mission statement.
  • They realize they are chasing funding opportunities with little regard for the alignment with the mission, aka "mission creep."

How we can help

While the idea of a group writing a mission or vision statement makes some people run for the hills, it attracts us like a magnet. Facilitating groups to develop or revise mission and vision statements is rewarding work because the depth of thinking and the clarifying discussions always lead to dynamic, understandable, jargon-free statements. Most of all, groups develop greater understanding of their organization and a deeper commitment to its work.