Does your mission adequately and accurately reflect your organization’s purpose? Is it succinct and to the point? Can you remember it without looking?

Your organization’s mission is the most important governing statement under the board’s responsibility. The mission (or fundamental purpose) of an organization should be revisited regularly to be sure it accurately reflects the work you do.

A strong mission will answer the questions of who you are, for whom your work is directed, where you engage, and the impact. The “what” you do are typically not included in a mission unless that really is the organization’s reason for being (for example, we exist to provide food boxes to citizens in need in Cal County). When a mission is memorable, it is short, easy to remember and sticks in the mind of the reader.

A mission should be broad enough that an organization can respond to new opportunities and changing environments, but narrow enough to clearly let people know what the organization is about.

Distribute a copy of this exercise (available as a PDF here) to each board member at your next board meeting. Take 10 minutes and ask the board to thoughtfully answer the questions. After the meeting, compile and summarize the answers for review at the following board meeting.

If necessary, identify recommendations for change and assign to a committee for follow-up. For fun, present the best mission haikus and drawings.

Answer the questions below to the best of your abilities.
1. Without looking at your current mission statement, write the mission of your organization as you understand it.

2. Read the actual mission statement. How well does it capture the essential nature of the organization?  Is it succinct and memorable?

3. How well does the mission answer the following questions? Very Well, Somewhat, or Not Well?
— Who we are
— To whom our work is directed
— Where we engage
— Our impact

4.  Does the mission try to cover anything else? If so, what? Could these elements be included elsewhere, such as the vision or values statement?

In your own words, rewrite the mission statement in one sentence. 

Just for fun, can you haiku or draw your mission?
(Haiku format: 1st line five syllables, 2nd line seven syllables, 3rd line five syllables)
Arts communities
Building a vibrant city
Together we stand

You can download this exercise FREE as a PDF to distribute to your board. The exercise is from our workbook, Board Management: 10-minute exercises to get your board working. It was developed in collaboration with Linda Golaszewski.