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The difference between a mission and vision for nonprofits

March 24, 2022
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What’s the difference between a nonprofit organization’s mission and its vision? Think of the words “visionary” and “missionary.” A visionary is someone who imagines possible futures, while a missionary is someone who does work under the guidance of a larger objective. 

Following these definitions, a vision statement describes how the world will be different because of the existence of the group. In contrast, a nonprofit’s mission statement describes the means that will be used to achieve the desired future, such as its programs and delivery methods. 

Your nonprofit’s vision statement will likely last for the life of the organization, while a mission statement should be revisited every two to three years to make sure that the means being used to attain the vision are still relevant. 

In this guide, we’ll provide examples of mission and vision statements to help your nonprofit pin down these essential messaging elements. 

Nonprofit vision statement

What is the future you want to create for your community? Consider both your beneficiaries and your supporters to create a vision statement that is hopeful while still being realistic. 

Try to make your vision statement specific to reflect your nonprofit’s unique brand identity. For example, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting oceans may have the ideal of creating a pollution-free environment for aquatic life, but many other environmental nonprofits likely have similar visions. Instead, the organization could get more specific, such as keeping a local stretch of coast trash-free or protecting a specific endangered species. 

Sample vision statements

To help your nonprofit get a better sense of what a vision statement should look like, here are a few examples: 

  • Lincoln Trail Libraries System envisions a future where collaboration between libraries and organizations results in easy access to information anytime, anywhere.
  • The vision of the ASPCA is that the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.
  • The American Red Cross Tsunami Recovery Program envisions an enduring recovery for tsunami-affected people. Communities enjoy rebuilt physical infrastructure, restored social networks, quality health services, and vibrant economies, and are prepared for future disasters.
  • Critical Resistance’s vision is the creation of genuinely safe, healthy communities that respond to harm without relying on prisons and punishment.

Mission statement

To determine your mission statement, answer a few key questions: What does your nonprofit do? Who do you do it for? And what are the outcomes of your actions

Review your ongoing programs and initiatives. Your current activities and mission statement should reflect one another. If they are out of sync, that could be a sign that you should either reassess your programming or draft a new mission statement. 

Creating new mission statements is part of running a growing nonprofit organization. Just be sure that when you do change mission statements, you make plans to communicate to your supporters why these changes were made and what they mean for your organization’s future activities. 

Sample mission statements

Here are a few examples of mission statements: 

  • Crisis Nursery is committed to creating an island of safety dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect through the provision of emergency intervention, respite care and support to families in crisis.
  • Because all children deserve excellent teachers, the Golden Apple Foundation advances the teaching profession by recognizing excellent teachers, leveraging their thinking and efforts to improve education, recruiting and preparing prospective teachers with a special emphasis on schools of need, and providing teachers access to innovative resources.
  • The mission of LifeQuest Center is to provide educational opportunities which empower individuals to improve the quality of their lives and excel in relationships through personal growth.
  • Lincoln Trail Libraries System connects the people of East Central Illinois to information through cooperation.
  • The goal of Campus Middle School for Girls is to provide a safe, challenging environment where all girls can develop their creative and intellectual powers, a love of learning and a passion for excellence, gain a sense of emotional and physical well-being, celebrate cultural differences, and form enduring friendships. To this end, we aim to promote confident, enthusiastic, and responsible young learners through a combination of small class size and a curriculum emphasizing the development of academic skills.

Establish your vision and fulfill your nonprofit’s mission

Putting your vision and mission into words helps keep your entire team on the same page, while also giving supporters a cause to rally behind. Take the time to assess your organization’s current activities, future goals, and initial reasons for establishing your nonprofit. By assessing these factors, you will be able to craft vision and mission statements you can proudly share with your supporters.  


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