As we explain in this episode of Whole Whale TV, there is an important distinction between your mission and vision statements. A good vision statement is a view of how the world should be as a result of your work. It should be short (i.e., one sentence). But an effective vision statement is also inspiring, memorable, and able to remain unchanged for 100 years.
Even if there isn’t an explicit vision statement on the website, most nonprofits start with one baked into their DNA. And we have a lot of favorites. Here are 5 of our picks for great vision statement examples from the sector to spark your inspiration. We’ll also go over why they work, so you can use these best practices in mapping your own vision statement.
A note: Some of these vision statements are listed on the organizations’ websites as mission statements. It’s okay to use the term “mission statement” externally if that makes more sense to your constituents. Internally, however, you need to define this separately from your vision statement. This ensures that your team knows the end result, as well as the deliverables they need to get there. Inspiration meets perspiration.
Yes, you need both a vision AND mission statement. How are nonprofits sharing both? Check out 5 of @WholeWhale's faves. Click To Tweet
1. The Trevor Project‘s Vision Statement
“The mission of The Trevor Project is to end suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people.”
Why We Love It: Yes, the Trevor Project lists this as their mission statement. But if we look closely at their Strategic Plan & Mission page, we can read between the lines and see that their front-facing mission statement is really the organization’s driving vision statement. The four strategies they outline support this vision with a mission to:
- Provide crisis counseling to LGBTQ youth contemplating suicide
- Offer resources and a sense of community to LGBTQ youth to reduce the risk that they become suicidal
- Educate young people and adults to identify suicide risk in LGBTQ youth and respond accordingly
- Advocate for laws and policies that reduce suicide in the LGBTQ youth community.
We see the why with the vision statement. We see the how with this supporting mission statement. Boom.
2. Brooklyn Academy of Music‘s Vision Statement
“To be the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas.”
Why We Love It: It’s just 10 words, yet this is a great vision statement. In fact, it’s just 10 words and therefore it’s a great vision statement. BAM’s company vision applies to each of its main offerings — including film, live performance, literary events, visual arts, and education. Whether you head to this Fort Greene institution for an indie film, a dance masterclass, or a Dutch theater company, BAM’s vision of adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas applies throughout.
BAM’s vision statement also has the hallmarks of a big, huge, ambitious vision: It’s an evergreen intention that drives the day-to-day work of the organization, inspires those who work at BAM, and sets the organization apart from the other manifold performing arts institutions here in New York.
3. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture‘s Vision Statement
“A world that recognizes and understands Native peoples as diverse tribes, each with a distinctive history, culture, and language, and each of which is an integral part of the vibrant, historical, and cultural landscape of the American Southwest.”
Why We Love It: Read that vision statement. Read it again. Notice a word missing? Yeah. It doesn’t mention “museum” once. MIAC has a purpose that extends past curation and arts, and we’re willing to bet that this vision is infused into everything from their exhibitions to their fundraising letters. And if their work promoting Native peoples ever needs to pivot from running a museum, the vision statement will still apply. Remember: Good vision statements can remain unchanged for 100 years.
4. Amnesty International‘s Vision Statement
“Our vision is a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”
Why We Love It: Once again, the “how we’ll do this work” is left out of the vision statement for Amnesty International. But looking at Amnesty’s work, we can see how the “how” supports this “why.”
For a topic as wide-reaching as human rights, having this as a north star will help when making decisions big and small. All any team member has to do when making a decision is ask, “Will this action help towards ensuring that every person to have all of the human rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?” That north star element is the marker of an effective vision statement.
5. Conservation International‘s Vision Statement
“We imagine a healthy, prosperous world in which societies are forever committed to caring for and valuing nature, for the long-term benefit of people and all life on Earth.”
Why We Love It: Not only does this vision statement set Conservation International’s mission, it’s clear that their vision is one for a world made better through their organization’s work. If you hover over the “Our Work” section of the site menu, they break down the sections under the “What,” “Where,” and “How.” A great way of supporting the core idea that saw the birth of this nonprofit.Visionary nonprofit vision statements from @TrevorProject, @BAM_Brooklyn, @NMM_IndianArts, @Amnesty, and @ConservationOrg. Click To Tweet
Which vision statements are on your sonar? Tweet them to us @WholeWhale with the hashtag #WhaledIt!