Every nonprofit has a different cause they’re contributing to, or a different community they’re trying to impact. But they’re all alike in the sense that they’re all working toward a future where their missions are met. The day-to-day work nonprofits do is important, but it should always have that end goal in mind.
If your nonprofit met all its goals, what would the world look like?
Having a concise nonprofit vision statement ensures you and your staff, board members and volunteers are working toward a future where nonprofit’s your mission reaches its full potential. A vision statement can be used both internally and externally, expresses why you do what you do, and can even encourage loyalty among stakeholders. Ultimately, your vision statement gives your organization a reason for being.The day-to-day work #nonprofits do is important, but it should always have your mission in mind. Click To Tweet
If your nonprofit is creating its first vision statement, is in the process of a rebrand or would like to rework its vision statement to better reflect current strategic direction, here’s how to get started developing a nonprofit vision statement to guide your future.
Consider your mission statement
While a vision statement expresses the future you want to create, a mission statement expresses what you will do every day to meet your goals. (Essentially, it’s difficult to create one statement without the other!) You may already have a mission statement, and if that’s the case, you can look to it for guidance before crafting your vision statement. If not, it helps to know what your organization is focused on today before you visualize a future where you achieve all your goals. While your mission statement is focused on the here and now, it includes elements you should also keep in mind when crafting your vision statement. A powerful mission statement:
- Motivates and inspires stakeholder commitment: Your mission statement shouldn’t be based on raising more funds, but on the significant work of employees, board members and volunteers and how your mission contributes to people’s lives.
- Is realistic and clear: Mission statements shouldn’t be too narrow or broad. A mission needs to contain a purpose that’s realistic to avoid mission creep, or expansion outside of your intended boundaries.
- Is specific, short, sharply focused and memorable: A mission statement should be simple, yet memorable enough that you can explain to someone at a cocktail party what your organization does and why, and trust that they’ll remember you.
- Says what your organization wants to be remembered for: In the end, your mission statement should leave a lasting impression. How do you want the world to think of you? Your statement can provide simple insight into why you do what you do.
Once you’ve crafted a mission statement you’re proud of, you’re ready to get started developing your vision statement.
Get the right people involved
Just like a mission statement, a nonprofit vision statement is a foundational strategic asset for your nonprofit that defines how you make decisions and spend your time — it’s not just a marketing line. That means you should involve your leadership in its development.
If possible, you should also make crafting your vision statement a participatory process and involve other internal and external stakeholders. To truly understand what your target stakeholders want the future of your organization to look like, conduct interviews with staff, board members, volunteers, beneficiaries or donors. Involving these key players is as much about making them feel heard as it is about getting their input.
Get on the same page about what an effective nonprofit vision statement looks like
Once you have a mission statement and key team members on board, take a moment to communicate and discuss what an effective nonprofit vision statement is, and why your organization needs one. Powerful vision statements are:
- Audacious: Your vision represents a dream that’s beyond what you think is possible. It represents the mountaintop your organization is striving to reach. Visioning takes you out beyond your present reality.
- Capitalizes on core competencies: Your vision builds on your organization’s core competencies, including what you’ve already established: organization history, supporter base, strengths, unique capabilities, resources and assets. It should also encompass what you’ll continue to establish as you work toward your mission.
- Futurecasting: Your vision provides a picture of what your organization will look like in the future.
Inspiring: Your vision engages language that inspires. It creates a vivid image in your stakeholders’ heads that provokes emotion and excitement. It creates enthusiasm and poses a challenge.
- Motivating: Your vision clarifies the direction in which your organization needs to move and keeps everyone pushing forward to reach it.
- Purpose-driven: Your vision gives employees and other stakeholders a larger sense of purpose, so they feel as though they’re building a cathedral instead of laying stones.
Once your team understands what a vision statement should look like, begin brainstorming and workshopping toward one.
Choose visioning exercises that work best for your group
It’s unlikely you’ll finalize your vision statement in just one day (in fact, you shouldn’t). Instead, we recommend holding a series of workshops to get your wheels turning and to eventually finalize the exact language for your statement.
First, think about other nonprofits’ vision statements and what you like and dislike about them. Some notable vision statements include:
- Make-A-Wish: Our vision is that people everywhere will share the power of a wish.
- Teach for America: One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
- Feeding America: A hunger-free America.
As you’ll notice, some vision statements are more descriptive than others, however, they’re all concise.
After you’ve considered elements of vision statements you both like and dislike, think about what you want to communicate in yours. Depending on who you want to be involved in helping formulate your vision statement, different brainstorming exercises may work for you. One interesting strategy we try is thinking about what the ideal news headline regarding your organization would exist 20 years from now. What do you want to be newsworthy about your organization? What goal would you like to achieve?
You can also try working through a series of prompts with your team to inspire your vision statement. Learning Strategies shares various brainstorming prompts like the following:
Imagine that you look up from your desk and you find yourself in an auditorium in which someone is speaking and announcing an award. You realize that the person speaking is _____________ and the award is the _______________ which goes to the organization which has __________________. The presenter says, “At no time in the history of the award until now has the judges been in unanimous agreement of the organization most deserving of this award. And this year the award goes to (this organization).” There is a standing ovation, as people get out of their chairs to applaud. When the applause dies down, the presenter goes on to list all the accomplishments that made this organization deserving. Listen to what the presenter is saying (brief silence) Fill it in… what was it that the organization accomplished?It’s unlikely you’ll finalize your vision statement in just one day (in fact, you shouldn’t). Click To Tweet
Prompts like this can get your team’s wheels turning, and takes the pressure off of coming up with a vision statement out of thin air. Once you brainstorm what you want to include in your vision statement and wordsmith it to fit your brand language, compare it to vision statements you liked initially. What is similar or different about it? Going back to square one will ensure you aren’t getting too off track in your vision statement development, and that your team is making decisions strategically.
Ready to create a powerful nonprofit vision statement?
The road to a vision statement is different for every nonprofit, but in the end, it’s worth taking the time to finalize this critical piece of your nonprofit’s communications. Our nonprofit marketing plan template walks you through how to craft your ideal vision statement, and how to integrate it with the rest of your marketing plan.