POP QUIZ! Can you distinguish whether the following are vision or mission statements?

  1. Inspiring, teaching and empowering women and families to overcome violence, crisis and poverty.
  2. Smithville is a vibrant, thriving and self-sustaining community.
  3. To fight the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy and friendship.
  4. A world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity.
  5. You can find the answers at the bottom of the blog. How did you do?  We are often asked what the difference is between a vision and a mission statement, especially when social sector agencies are working on their strategic plans.

Here’s a quick refresh from our Words to Know:

  • Vision Statement – a vision statement describes the organization’s desired state of the world. That is, what will the community look like once the agency has accomplished its mission? What would the community look like if the problem the agency is trying to solve were resolved?
  • Mission Statement – a mission statement describes the organization’s reason for existing, its priorities and methods for accomplishing the vision. This provides a link between where the community is currently and how the organization will move it to the desired state.

It is very common for organizations to confuse the two or to place more emphasis on the mission. While mission is important, vision plays an equally important role. In our research, we’ve found that many social sector organizations do not have vision statements, which is a missed opportunity to tell and sell your story. A vision statement tells stakeholders why they should care – right now – which is incredibly helpful in a world where social sector organizations must compete with the 3,000 to 20,000 marketing messages consumers see daily. The vision also dictates the scope of the solution (i.e., mission and programs). For example, if your vision is for every third grader to be a proficient reader, your agency’s services will be heavily geared toward literacy. Alternatively, an organization whose vision is for every child to be ready for kindergarten will be focused broadly on literacy, math, social skills and more. How you frame the problem shapes your agency’s approach.

If you don’t have a vision statement or don’t know where to start, here are three steps to get you going:

  1. Begin with market research. Research your competitors’ or other similar organizations’ vision statements or survey your stakeholders for input on their definition of success and aggregate those findings as a starting point.
  2. Convene a small group to wordsmith possible vision statements.
  3. Test the resulting product with individuals not involved in the process to see what excites and resonates with people most.

We hope you’ll take a moment to develop or refresh your social sector organization’s vision statement. If you have a great vision you are dying to share with us, please shoot them our way. Otherwise, join us next week for our blog on Top Questions on Social Enterprise.

Quiz Answers:
(1) Mission (2) Vision (3) Mission (4) Vision

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