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The "Identity Collection": Mission, Vision, and Values

July 2023

Mission, vision, and values are the three things that define a nonprofit organization’s identity. As part of incorporating a not-for-profit organization, the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws include a statement about the organization’s mission. This statement describes the work the organization will do. It is the yardstick by which we assess community impact and measure the outcome. The documents may contain a vision statement; in some cases, the bylaws might include values statements. A mission statement is required, and the other two, although optional, have become best practices to develop and adopt by the board of directors.


The vision statement describes a future state, whereas the mission statement describes current conditions, what your organization will do about them, for whom, and the expected result. The vision statement describes what the geographic region you serve would be like in a perfect world if someone did not need your services. It should paint a picture that evokes emotion and concern and compels others to want to join you in your work to create an ideal state- such as a world free of breast concern, a place where everyone is safe in their home, or a nation without hate. 


Values statements let others know what matters to your organization as it performs its work. Your organization might value client satisfaction and customer service, employee health and wellness, respect and dignity, accountability, diversity, equity, and inclusion, patient-driven care, and many other priorities. Every organization member should live these values daily, including the board of directors, employees, and volunteers.


Collectively, these three statements define who you are as an organization, who you serve, what you stand for, and how you do your work to create the change you want to see. The board of directors should periodically review the mission and vision statements for continued relevancy and accuracy; for example, as the world changes or if the nonprofit achieves its vision. This reality is why governance best practices recommend revisiting them every few years. The values, however, are the organization’s core and should remain throughout or perhaps expand.


As I provide consulting and training services to nonprofit organizations nationwide, I assist them in developing or reassessing the “Identity Collection” by working with the board of directors, Founder/CEO, and staff. Understanding why these statements are significant is essential, ensuring you have all three and prioritizing giving attention to them. Join us in an upcoming workshop to learn more. 


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