Your Vision, Mission, and Strategy

"It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business." - Gertrude Stein

Vision & Mission Statements

Vision and mission statements are not meaningless statements. They:

  1. Keep non-government organisations focused on the needs of their community
  2. Define organisational boundaries by clearly outlining the problem or need which it addresses
  3. Provide staff with clear direction about organisational values and goals and motivate them to achieve common outcomes
  4. Inform the development of the strategic plan and your organisational goals
  5. Give funders a clear indication of the purpose of your organisation (Braun, 2012).

Although mission and vision statements are short, writing one is not a quick process. It takes time to identify an organisational purpose which is inclusive, inspirational, and appropriate.

Vision Statements

Vision statements inform staff, clients, funders, and the community about the values that your organisation represents. Your vision statement paints a picture of what your organisation wants to achieve. It takes a longer term view than your mission statement and strategic plans (i.e., what does your organisation hope to achieve in 20 years from now?).

Unlike mission statements and strategic plans, vision statements are not measurable. They embody long-term foundational beliefs which:

  • Inform staff about how things should be done
  • Shape consumers' understanding of why they should engage with your organisation
  • Provide funders with an indication of whether your organisation's values match their own.

Mission Statements

An effective mission statement must provide a clear description of:

  • Where an organisation is headed
  • What sets it apart from other entities
  • The target need and consumer group.

A mission statement must be short, memorable, unambiguous, and appropriate for a variety of organisational stakeholders including employees, consumers, Board members and funders.

Mission statements inform staff, consumers, funders, and the community about:

  • The reason your organisation was established (purpose)
  • What your organisation wants to achieve (objectives).

Good mission statements should keep your organisation focused and help decision-making processes by:

  1. Providing a brief overview of your areas of concern
  2. Incorporating measurable outcomes.

A mission statement is your organisation's touchstone. Use it as a tool to decide between various courses of action. As you develop programs, apply for funding, and pursue your ideals, always ask:

"Will this help us accomplish our mission?"

When developing or reviewing your mission statement, answer the six questions in the table below.

6 Questions to Help Develop Your Mission Statement

Question Considerations
What do we do? What services do you provide?
How do we do it? This refers to technical elements of the organisation i.e., the types of programs and services that you provide to your consumers and how those services and programs are delivered.
For whom do we do it? The answer to this question will help you focus your organisational efforts, define your consumers' demographic characteristics (e.g., age, income etc), and then define a geographic area in which your organisation offers services.
Is this the best way of providing our services? This question helps organisations to avoid becoming fixed, focused or rigid about how they do things.
Is there anything else we could be doing to improve our outcomes and achieve our goals? This question helps organisations evolve their service delivery models and/or activities.
Is everything we are doing really focused on achieving our goals? This question helps you avoid or cease activities which are not achieving your goals.

Strategic Plans

Strategic plans are important to:

1.  Inform potential funders about:

  • Your organisation
  • Your organisation's goals and functions
  • What your organisation hopes to achieve over a specified period of time – usually five or so years.

2.  Strengthen your organisation by:

  • Assessing productivity and the effectiveness of your fund development activities
  • Building Board, staff and volunteer understanding of your organisation's relationship with its community
  • Developing and enhancing relationships with funders
  • Targeting areas of stakeholder interest
  • Identifying fund development areas
  • Increasing the organisation’s visibility.

Your strategic plan should:

1.  Outline your organisation's critical success factors. These are the areas which require a long-term focus to achieve your organisation's mission and vision
2.  Detail your strategic approach to achieving your objectives
3.  Define your relationship with the community by including details of intended target groups and collaborators
4.  Clearly state specific and measurable short-term goals 

  • What you want to accomplish
  • When you want to accomplish it
  • How you are going to do it
  • Who is responsible for achieving these goals.

5.  Identify:

  • Activities that lead to the implementation of your goals (also known as action items)
  • Who will manage and monitor the plan and how it is communicated and supported.

Developing Your Vision, Mission, & Strategy

Your organisation's vision, mission, and strategy are influenced by the needs and problems you have identified in your community (see Identifying Needs).

To develop your strategic plan, you need to identify your organisation's:

  • Values and goals
  • The activities, steps, and resources needed to achieve its goals
  • What you will need to measure to determine success.

Organisations often undertake a Results Based Accountability (RBA) process which asks: 

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • How much will we do?
  • How well will we do it?
  • Will anyone be bettter off?

Knowing what you want to achieve, what and how much you need to do to achieve it, and who will benefit from your actions is crucial when developing and/or reviewing your organisation's strategic plan. In general, strategic plans explain:

  • Where you are now
  • Where you are going
  • How you intend to get there.

Strategic plans build on your organisation’s strengths; address its weaknesses; capitalise on opportunities; and, develop responses to threats (see Your Organisation's Track Record for a SWOT analysis of your organisation's activities and resources).

Demonstrating that your organisation has a long term plan reassures funders that their investment is sustainable, in safe hands, and will have ongoing benefits.


Reviewing Your Mission and Strategy

The planning process defines and continually reviews your organisation's relevance. It is imperative that you regularly revisit your mission statement, strategic plans, and funding development strategies and involve as many stakeholders as possible. 

As organisational priorities are influenced by community needs and problems, organisations may have to change direction as the external environment changes. Mission statements and strategic plans may need to be adapted or even completely rewritten, over time.

Example of a changing political environment: The Australian Context

In 2007 an Improved Services Initiative was implemented by the Australian Government to build service capacity, so that the alcohol and other drug sector could respond more effectively to alcohol and other drug consumers with co-occuring mental health issues. The Initiative included a range of strategies that aimed to better qualify, train and professionally develop the workforce, build the capacity of the NGO sector, increase organisational responsibilities through the development and dissemination of resources, and enhance partnerships with related professionals through linkage activities. A number of alcohol and other drug agencies have subsequently incorporated a mental health focus in their mission statements (WANADA, 2011).

Example of a changing medical environment: The International Context

The March of Dimes was an organisation that had been set up specifically to serve polio victims and search for a cure. As polio was gradually eradicated in the US by the introduction of the Salk vaccine, the March of Dimes faced an evolving identity crisis. Should they go out of business or change their mission? The organisation chose to change the mission. A wise decision since there was a healthy infrastructure in place. The March of Dimes re-focused on preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

The Planning Process

An organisation that thinks and acts strategically is better positioned for effective funding development. The planning processes involved in developing your mission statement, strategic plans, and funding development strategies enable:

  • Diverse stakeholders to embrace your organisation's mission, strategies, and objectives
  • Staff, funders, clients and the wider community to be informed about:
    • Why your organisation matters
    • What your organisation does to obtain results and make a difference.

Involving relevant external and internal stakeholders in your organisation's planning activities is a good way to:

  • Educate them about your organisation's mission, goals, and successes
  • Bring about organisational commitment and alignment
  • Produce organisational learning and change.

When developing or reviewing your strategic plan, complete Activity 2.2.3 Developing and Reviewing Your Strategic Plan in 20 Questions (see below).

TIPS: Your Vision, Mission, & Strategy

  • Creating or renewing your vision and mission statement will take time. The process involved is just as important as the end result.
  • When creating your vision and mission statements, involve the Board, staff and others connected to your organisation.
  • Stimulate ideas by looking at sample mission statements.
  • If you are a large and/or diverse organisation you may want to consider developing targeted mission statements to satisfy the needs of different clients.
  • Do not make your mission statement lengthy and ambiguous. It must reflect your organisation's goals and the community's needs.
  • Vision and mission statements guide your organisation. They do not lock it into a particular direction. As your organisation grows or the community's needs change, review your vision and mission statements to ensure they still reflect your organisation's goals.
  • However, do not review your vision and mission statements too often or too radically as they contain foundational attributes, not ever-changing items based on the flavour of the moment.
  • Your mission statement must be measurable. Funders are committed to your values; not your organisation. Reinforce your vision by measuring how well you achieve your mission. See Your Organisation's Track Record for ways to measure your services and/or programs.
  • Try not to use unmeasurable objectives or unachievable goals such as "eliminating drug use" in your mission statement and strategic plan.
  • Develop a communication plan for informing staff, clients, funders, and the community about your organisational history, values, missions, plans, and achievements. Items which may assist you to record your organisational history are annual reports and previous reports to funding bodies.
  • How long your organisation has been in existence is not as important as your organisational values and outcomes.
  • Do not use jargon and/or formal language that only professionals in your particular field will understand.
  • Use the active voice, not passive voice.
  • Do not focus on the organisation; focus on the people it serves.

References & Resources

YouTube Videos

For more information about Results Based Accountability, watch the YouTube videos below.


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Activity 2.2.1 Exploring Your Organisation's Vision and Mission

2.2.1.pdf (149 KB)

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Activity 2.2.2 An 8 Word Mission Statement

Create a unique mission statement for your organisation which clearly defines your organisation's purpose by answering the questions below.

2.2.2.pdf (97 KB)

Activity 2.2.3 Developing and Reviewing Your Strategic Plan in 20 Questions.

Involve senior staff, Board Members, and management in developing a strategic plan for your organisation.

If you are a smaller organisation or have a large volunteer workforce, involve junior staff or volunteers in this process. See Section 4 Funding Development Team for ideas about how to involve junior staff and volunteers.

2.2.3.pdf (134 KB)

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