Know the difference between mission and vision at your nonprofit
A mission statement and a vision statement are distinctly different — and a nonprofit organization needs both.
A mission statement describes what an organization does right now. In two to three sentences, the mission describes the essence or purpose of an organization.
A vision statement articulates the future of an organization. This statement should be a rich, meaningful, detailed description of what an organization hopes to become.
Here's how the two statements differ:
- A mission controls, while a vision inspires.
- A mission statement keeps an organization on track and guides it in the right direction.
- A vision statement motivates and offers a framework for the mission to grow and change.
For example, a food bank's mission might be "to feed the hungry on Long Island." Its vision, however, could then be "to end hunger on Long Island."
A mission statement helps in the day-to-day life of an organization. It guides decisions, upcoming programs and short-term goals. It is the yellow brick road of "Wizard of Oz" fame.
A vision statement is Oz. This statement motivates the organization, the board and the staff while keeping the nonprofit from getting into ruts and stagnating. As a description of where the organization wants to be in the future, the vision statement is a liberating force that allows the mission to adapt.
Remember: although the yellow brick road is sometimes straight, it frequently has twists and turns — and you need to stay on it to get to Oz.
For more from Adelphi University, visit the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.