Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On A Mission

When I teach fundraising workshops, I always ask how many of my students can remember their organization's mission statements. Typically, only a couple come even close. Rare is the student who knows their mission word for word.

This is not usually the individual's fault. Generally speaking, most mission statements are over-written statements of principle that have very little to do with the actual work of your nonprofit. The flip side of that problem is the mission statement that's just a laundry list of programs, but doesn't explain why the programs are important.

The mission statement should be a clear and simple statement of what you intend to do to make the world a better place. Your mission should reflect your programs, not enumerate or push them.

What that means is that your mission should be sufficiently broad without being too limiting. The broadness is to define the area or problem that you work in (hunger, a disease, low-income housing, school readiness, etc.). The warning on being too specific is to allow you flexibility in how you address the problem.

"We do good things to help hungry people." - Too broad.

"We supply one bag of groceries each week to low-income families below 40% of area median income, each bag to contain items from each of the major food groups." - Too defining.

"We provide services and programs designed to end hunger and build food security among low-income families in the tri-county area." - Probably about right.

If your mission statement has you either "maximizing synergies for optimum resulting outcomes" or tied in to one specific solution to your issue, it may be time to take another look and do a little re-writing.

For further tips, Quality Service Marketing just completed a three-part article on writing mission statements on their blog. See Memorable & Meaningful Mission Statements, Part I, Part II, and Part III.

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