Blog Entry 8: The Importance of Mission Statements

The Importance of Mission Statements

Greetings everyone, and welcome to another blog post from the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable.  I must admit that I find it fortuitous that I have the opportunity to write this after the Elevator Speech post, as I feel today’s topic dovetails nicely with that particular entry.  

That said, let’s go ahead and starting talking about why mission statements are important for our respective institutions.  Now I imagine that a number of you are probably already rolling your eyes at the idea of a mission statement being important, and unfortunately you are probably justified in doing so because there are a lot of poorly written mission statements out there.  But now I am getting ahead of myself, so back to why mission statements are important.  To put my point as simply as I can, mission statements are important because they can provide a clear direction for our operation decision-making and they can inform external audiences, for example resource allocators, about our work.

This latter point is especially important during difficult economic times, when individuals need to be able to succinctly and effectively communicate why the work that their institution does is important, and is deserving of continued/new investment of resources.  When thinking of a mission statement in this particular light, it makes it sound very similar to an elevator speech...and, in my opinion that is a good thing.  After all, how accurate and effective can an institutional elevator speech be if it does not express the key values that should be found in a mission statement?   So yes, if written well, a mission statement can serve as an effective tool in our advocacy toolbox.

With that in mind let’s take a brief look at some of the qualities that can often be found in well-written mission statements.  


1.  Mission statements should to be focused and workable.  Or in other words, a mission statement should be able to serve as an effective decision making tool for making operational decisions.  Or to put it yet another way, it cannot be an overly generalized statement that is full of empty platitudes that actually offers no direction.

2.  While being focused and workable, it should also be inspirational.  It should express values that all of those involved with the organization can take pride in.  

3.  A mission statement should also state how your institution’s work is unique from others, and make a compelling case for why that work is important.  Depending on your respective external audiences that compelling case may be largely implied, but it should still be there.   

4.  A mission statement should be written as clearly as possible, and consequently should avoid professional jargon. Avoiding such language makes the statement more accessible to anyone who might encounter it.

5.  We need to be willing to review our mission statements.  Just because something served as a good mission statement ten years ago, doesn’t mean it still does.  If you do decide to rewrite a mission statement, it should look to the future and not serve as a historical justification for past actions.

6.  Finally, if you find yourself writing a new mission statement you have to be willing to invest significant time to do so.  This might seem frustrating when your final outcome might be less than fifty words of information, but nonetheless if you want to write a mission statement that encompasses all of the above qualities, there is no way around it.