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10 Things Your Nonprofit Mission Statement Must Do

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Your mission statement may be the most important sentence your nonprofit ever publishes. It sets the tone for your organization: why you exist, what you do and how you do it. You don’t have to look very far to find an opinion about what makes a good mission statement. Here are my thoughts on what a mission statement must do:

  1. OxfamInspire
  2. Capture the mission
  3. Establish a tone for the future
  4. Be easily remembered
  5. Set your organization apart
  6. Encourage participation
  7. Promote
  8. Guide daily actions
  9. Offer encouragement
  10. Stand the test of time

Sounds easy, right? Believe it or not, you can achieve most of these goals simply by running two stress tests.

Two Simple Tests Can Improve Your Mission Statement

Mr. Tom Ahern, one of the most widely known and sought after communications consultants in the nonprofit world, recommends that all your donor communications content be subjected to two tests. Your mission statement is a great place to start!

The two tests are:

  1. The You Test
  2. The Flesch–Kincaid Reading Level Test

The You Test measures the number of pronouns. Documents that pass the test have more “you” pronouns than “I/me/we” pronouns. In any communication to a donor or perspective donor, the focus should be on the donor and not the charity.

The Flesch–Kincaid Reading Level test is a grade level reading analysis. In order to pass, the text or document must read between a 5th grade and 8th grade levels. Content written within those grade levels are often the easiest to understand, and thereby the most powerful. If you score higher than an 8th grade level, your mission statement might be difficult to understand or contain nebulous language.

Both tests can be found within the Ahern Audit, a special function within Bloomerang. However, non-Bloomerang users can put their documents to the test manually using a word processor.

You Can Rescue Your Mission Statement

Just glance back up at my list of 10 “musts” above and notice how many of them the Ahern Audit can have a positive effect upon. By putting the focus on the donor and not the charity, while simplifying the overall message, your mission statement can become a more powerful outreach tool.

An executive director friend of mine recently told me over lunch that she ran her organization’s multi-year-old mission statement through both tests, only to realize that it read at a 10th grade level and contained no “you” statements. Her team is now re-evaluating the text!

What else do you think a nonprofit mission statement can do? Let me know in our comment section below!

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  • Michelle

    Our organization is still struggling with refining and simplifying our mission statement. I would love some ideas. Can you give some examples of good mission statements?
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