The unique qualities of a mission statement and some great examples for inspiration.
Keep reading and we’ll show you some of the best mission statement examples from actual organizations. But before we do that, let’s clearly define the concept.
Mission statements articulate the organization’s purpose. They outline why your business exists, showing the value of the product or service you provide, as well as the problems you’re seeking to solve. Mission statements often answer the questions of what, how, who, and why (we care).
In comparison, vision statements are forward-thinking, broad proclamations about how your organization is going to leave an impact. In more simplistic terms, vision statements are the dream of the future and mission statements are the plan for the present day.
Mission statements are the strategic start line for all organizations. If you don’t have a clear mission, you’ll never get out of the gates. These statements provide employees with a framework and sense of purpose, helping the team coordinate efforts and make decisions that align with your goals.
A mission also helps your organization distinguish itself in the industry. In many ways, it’s an important part of brand building. Your mission inherently presents a “personality” to your employees and the general public, clearly stating why what you do is important and how it helps people. It’s a reflection of your cultural values.
Without being too repetitive, remember that your mission and vision statements shouldn’t be carbon copies of each other. Your vision is your ideal future while your mission is your purpose and plan that you will act on every day. A good mission statement has these qualities:
City of Albany, GA: “The City of Albany delivers fiscally responsible, highly dependable services to the citizens in the community and the region with integrity and professionalism.”
Notice Albany’s primary focus on citizens—this is a key element of every good municipal mission statement. This reflects the purpose of all local governments, which is to foster the health and happiness of their citizens and community. The mentions of fiscal responsibility and integrity are also specific and attainable ways Albany will achieve their goals and build trust.
Georgetown University: “Georgetown educates women and men to be reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.”
Georgetown’s full mission statement is four paragraphs long, but we focused on the last sentence for the sake of this example. The mission is written in a manner that inspires everyone in the Georgetown community—students, professors, and alumni. It emphasizes the purpose of offering quality education that serves people throughout their life, making it clear that what the institution offers is valuable beyond the four years on campus.
Heritage Bank: “‘Committed to those we serve.’ We will create and maintain a professional environment that invites the ideas of our employees, fosters the confidence of our shareholders, and exceeds the expectations of our customers. We will be a specialized solution provider that:
Heritage Bank’s mission statement starts with a bang, using a very concise tagline that tells both employees and customers where its priorities lie. It gets more specific in the following sentences, mentioning concrete action items and distinct audiences (shareholders and customers). This two-part structure is unique and effective for Heritage. The bank weaves in its purpose throughout both the aspirational and specific elements.
American Red Cross (ARC): “To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
In the nonprofit industry, mission statement language becomes more emotional and inspirational. ARC is a good example of that. The organization addresses its key people—volunteers and donors—in a way that’s almost a call to arms. It also specifies that it focuses on emergency situations, while also not limiting services to a certain disease or need, but rather all human suffering.
Doctors Without Borders (DWB): “To help people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from health care.”
It’s interesting to compare DWB to ARC. Both are great mission statement examples, but as you can see by the phrasing, the two organizations have different goals. Both have a concise message with the purpose of providing emergency aid, but DWB specifically references “the people affected” (versus donors and volunteers), and also specifies which situations it focuses on. The emphasis is on “where the need is greatest,” which is part of DWB’s values and priorities.
Your mission statement is the first piece of your strategy. Your vision statement should be in the works as well. Once those two building blocks are in place, you can launch your strategic planning process.