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There are many other reasons to develop vision and mission statements as well. For example, having clear and compelling vision statements can:. Armed with a better understanding of vision and mission statements, it's time for your organization to develop them for itself. If your group has already developed vision and mission statements, you might wish to look at them in light of the criteria we discussed above. If members of your organization feel your current statements could be improved upon, this process can be used to modify them. As developing your vision and mission statements is the first step in developing the action plan that will guide your effort, it is especially important that these first steps are well grounded in community beliefs and values.

Knowing the important issues in your community is vital for the development of a strong, effective, and enduring action group.


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Therefore, one of the first steps you should take when developing the vision and mission of your organization will be is to define the issue s that matter most to people in your community. How do you go about doing so? Conduct "public forums" or "listening sessions" with members of the community to gather ideas, thoughts, and opinions about how they would like to see the community transformed.

In public forums or listening sessions, people come together from throughout the community to talk about what is important to them. These meetings are usually led by facilitators, who guide a discussion of what people perceive to be the community 's strengths and problems, and what people wish the community was like. Someone usually records these meetings, and a transcript of what is said provides a basis for subsequent planning. Hold focus groups with the people interested in addressing the issue s , including community leaders, people most affected by the issues, businesses, church leaders, teachers, etc.

Focus groups are similar to public forums and listening sessions, but they are smaller and more intimate. Generally speaking, they are comprised of small groups of people with similar backgrounds, so they will feel comfortable talking openly about what concerns them. For example, the members of a group are generally about the same age, are of the same ethnic group, or have another common experience.

They are used in much the same way as public forums, and also use facilitators and recorders to focus and take notes on the work done. Your organization may choose to hold focus groups with several different groups of people, to get the most holistic view of the issue at hand. For example, if your organization is involved in child health, you might have one focus group with health care providers, another with parents or children, and still another with teachers.

Once you have a rough mission statement, you might again use a focus group to test it out. Obtain interviews with people in leadership and service positions, including such individuals as local politicians, school administrators, hospital and social service agency staff, about what problems or needs they believe exist in your community.

Often, these individuals will have both facts and experiences to back up their views. If so, you can also use these data later if and when you apply for funding, or when you request community support to address the issues.


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More information on this topic can be found in Chapter 3, Section Of course, these different ways to gather information from you community aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, if you have the resources, it makes sense to do all of the above: And finally, some one on one time with community leaders can only serve to strengthen your knowledge and purpose; remember, there are undoubtedly many people in your community who have been wrestling with the same issues you are now looking at for a long time.

Take advantage of that experience; you don't want to reinvent the wheel! No matter if you are talking to one person or , your purpose is the same: Here's a list of questions you might use to focus your discussions with community members. These questions may be used for individual interviews, focus groups, public forums, or in any other way you choose to gather information. When your organization is questioning people, the facilitator should encourage everyone to allow their most idealistic, hopeful, and positive ideas to shine through.

Don't worry right now about what's practical and what's not - this can be narrowed down later. Encourage everyone to be bold and participate, and to remember that you are trying to articulate a vision of a better community, and a better world. Once members of your organization have heard what the community has to say, it 's time to decide the general focus of your organization or initiative. First of all, what topic is most important to your organization and your community? For example, will you tackle urban development or public health issues?

Racism or economic opportunity? A second question you will need to answer is at what level will your organization work. Will your organization begin only in one school, or in one neighborhood, or in your city?

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Or will your initiative's focus be broader, working on a state, national, or even international level. These are questions for which there are no easy answers. Your organization will need to consider what it has learned from the community, and decide through thoughtful discussion the best direction for your organization. We suggest you open this discussion up to everyone in your organization to obtain the best results.

Of course, if your organization is receiving grant money or major funding from a particular agency, the grant maker may specify what the general goal of your group should be.

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For example, if your group accepts a grant to reduce child hunger, at least part of its mission will be devoted to this purpose. Even in these circumstances, however, the community should determine the ultimate vision and mission that will best advance what matters to local people. Now that your organization has a clearer understanding of what the organization will do and why, you are in a prime position to develop the statements that will capture your ideas.


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As you are looking at potential statements, remember to keep them broad and enduring. Vision and mission statements that are wide in scope allow for a sense of continuity with a community's history, traditions, and broad purposes. And vision and mission statements that are built to last will guide efforts both today and tomorrow. First of all, remind members of your organization that it often takes several vision statements to fully capture the dreams of those involved in a community improvement effort.

You don't need - or even want - to have just one "perfect" phrase. Encourage people to suggest all of their ideas, and write them down - possibly on poster paper at the front of the room, so people can be further inspired by the ideas of others. As you do this, help everyone keep in mind:. If you have a hard time getting started, you might wish to check out some of the vision statements in this section's Examples.

You might ask yourself how well they meet the above suggestions. After you have brainstormed a lot of ideas, your group can discuss critically the different ideas. Oftentimes, several of the vision statements will just jump out at you - someone will suggest it, and people will just instantly think, "That's it! Whether you ultimately end up with two vision statements or ten, what is most important is that the statements together give a holistic view of the vision of your organization.

The process of writing your mission statement is much like that for developing your vision statements. The same brainstorming process can help you develop possibilities for your mission statement. Remember, though, that unlike with vision statements, you will want to develop a single mission statement for your work. After having brainstormed for possible statements, you will want to ask of each one:.

Once members of your organization have developed your vision and mission statements, your next step might be to learn what other members of your community think of them before you start to use them regularly. To do this, you could talk to the same community leaders or focus group members you spoke to originally.

First of all, this can help you ensure that they don't find the statements offensive in any way. For example, an initiative that wants to include young men more fully in its teen pregnancy prevention project might have "Young men in Asheville are the best informed" as one of their vision statements.

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But taken out of context, some people community members might believe this statement means young men are given better information or education than young women, thus offending another group of people. Second, you will want to ensure that community members agree that the statements together capture the spirit of what they believe and desire. Your organization might find it has omitted something very important by mistake. Finally, it's important to remember that while developing the statements is a huge step for your organization and one you should celebrate!

Next, you have to decide how to use these statements. Otherwise, all of your hard work will have happening for nothing. The point is to get the message across. There are many, many ways in which your organization may choose to spread its vision and mission statements. To name just a few examples, you might:.

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Developing effective vision and mission statements are two of the most important tasks your organization will ever do, because almost everything else you do will be affected by these statements. We hope that this section has allowed you to feel more confident now in your group's ability to create successful and inspiring vision and mission statements.

Remember, think broadly and boldly! Strategic planning workbook for non-profit organizations. Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations: A guide to strengthening and sustaining organizational achievement. Resource manual for a living revolution: Preventing adolescent substance abuse: An approach to strategic planning.

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