An organization’s mission statement should clearly communicate what it is that they do. Many mission statements succumb to an overuse of words in general, but especially jargon. Good mission statements should be clear, concise, and useful. Some might also add “inspiring” to the list of descriptors. We don’t altogether disagree, but we find that including this as upfront criteria often ends up with a Frankenstein that is a part mission, part vision statement (desired end-state), and almost always too long.

mission statement definition

The following are 50 mission statements selected from the top 100 nonprofits list (based on a series of web, social, and financial metrics).

Details on how this list was compiled can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

General Findings

  • The best mission statements are clear, concise, and useful (informs. focuses. guides.)
  • Avg length for the full 50 organizations listed here is only 15.3 words (excluding brand references)
  • Avg length for the first 20 organizations below is only 9.5 words (excluding brand references).
  • The shortest contains only two words (TED)
  • The longest contained 235 words (UNHCR)

 

Related Articles:

30 Example Vision Statements
Guide to Creating a Mission Statement

50 Mission Statements from Top Nonprofits

TED: Spreading Ideas. (2 words)
*Too short for readability grading

The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. (4 words)
*Too short for readability grading

Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
Readability grade; A. 100% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: To inspire conservation of the oceans. (6)
Grade B. 97% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.

Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
Grade C. 84% Reach. 10th-grade reading level.

Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals. (7)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 6th-grade reading level.

Kiva: To connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. (8)
Grade C. 77% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer. (8)
Grade B. 87% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.

Invisible Children: To bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities. (8)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 7th-grade reading level.

Public Broadcasting System (PBS): To create content that educates, informs and inspires. (8)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 9th-grade reading level.

USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9)
Grade A. 100% Reach. 8th-grade reading level.

Human Rights Campaign Working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. (9)
Grade E. 44% reach. 14th-grade (college sophomore) reading level.

National Wildlife Federation: Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. (9)
Grade C. 74% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. (10)
Grade C. 80% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

charity: water: Bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. (10)
Grade B. 88% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

American Heart Association: To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. (10)
Grade C. 80% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

Environmental Defense Fund: To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. (10)
Grade A. 100% reach. 7th-grade reading level.

New York Public Library: To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. (10)
Grade C. 71% reach. 13th-grade (college freshman) reading level.

The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. (11)
Grade A. 100% reach. 5th-grade reading level.

CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. (12)
Grade C. 80% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

National Parks Conservation Association: To protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations. (13)
Grade D. 62% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

JDRF: To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. (14)
Grade A. 100% reach. 9th-grade reading level.

Heifer International: To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. (14)
Grade A. 100% reach. 7th-grade reading level.

ASPCA: To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. (15)
Grade C. 80% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

Defenders of Wildlife: The protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. (15)
Grade D. 68% reach. 11th-grade reading level

Amnesty International: To undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights. (15)
Grade C. 80% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. (15)
Grade E. 25% reach. 18th-grade (second-year masters student) reading level.

March of Dimes: We help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies. (16)
Grade B. 100% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

American Diabetes Association: To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. (16)
Grade B. 92% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

Habitat for Humanity International: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. (16)
Grade D. 68% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

In Touch Ministries: To lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church. (17)
Grade B. 87% reach. 9th-grade reading level.

Cleveland Clinic: To provide better care of the sick, investigation into their problems, and further education of those who serve. (18)
Grade C. 77% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF fights for the survival and development of the world’s most vulnerable children and protects their basic human rights. (18)
Grade C. 77% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. (18)
Grade D. 57% reach. 13th-grade (college freshman) reading level.

Teach for America: Growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education. (20)
Grade C. 77% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

Save the Children: To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. (20)
Grade B. 95% reach. 9th-grade reading level.

San Diego Zoo is a conservation, education, and recreation organization dedicated to the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of animals, plants, and their habitats. (20)
Grade E. 25% reach. 17th-grade (first-year graduate student) reading level.

Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people. (20)
Grade E. 53% reach. 13th-grade (college freshman) reading level.

Make-A-Wish: We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. (21)
Grade C. 72% reach. 12th-grade reading level.

American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. (21)
Grade E. 34% reach. 14th-grade (college sophomore) reading level.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: We mobilize people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. (21)
Grade C. 72% reach. 12th-grade reading level.

Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) works in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation. (21)
Grade D. 55% reach. 13th-grade (college freshman) reading level.

Feeding America: To feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger. (22)
Grade C. 80% reach. 10th-grade reading level.

Susan G Komen for the Cure is fighting every minute of every day to finish what we started and achieve our vision of a world without breast cancer. (24)
Grade C. 84% reach. 8th-grade reading level.

Audubon: To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. (24)
Grade E. 26% reach. 15th-grade (college junior) reading level.

Mayo Clinic: To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research. (24)
Grade E. 51% reach. 13th-grade (college freshman) reading level.

The Rotary Foundation: To enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty. (24)
Grade E. 37% reach. 15th-grade (college junior) reading level.

AARP: To enhance quality of life for all as we age. We lead positive social change and deliver value to members through information, advocacy and service. (25)
Grade B. 92% reach. 9th-grade reading level.

Boy Scouts of America: To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. (25)
Grade C. 73% reach. 11th-grade reading level.

NPR: To work in partnership with member stations to create a more informed public – one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. (28)
Grade E. 40% reach. 14th-grade (college sophmore) reading level.

What does this mean for you?

Is your mission statement longer than 20 words? Can you get it below 15? Below 10? Design it to clearly communicate what you do in such a way that people can remember it and communicate this to others. If you can’t get a mission statement below 15 words, consider also creating a mission tagline (2-6 words) which people can more easily remember.

Definitions

Readability grade is Readable.com’s bespoke rating system grade text from A to E for readability. According to their recommendations, text aimed at the general public should be grade B or better.

Reach also comes from readable.com and measures the proportion of the literate general public, so a reach of 100% means your content is readable by about 85% of the public (that being the percentage that are literate)

Reading grade level is equivalent to the number of years of education a person has had. A score of around 10-12 is roughly the reading level on completion of high school. Text to be read by the general public should aim for a grade level of around 8 (source Readable).

How the list was compiled

  • Mission statements were gathered for each of the top 100 nonprofits (based on a series of web, social, and transparency metrics) and then evaluated for content and length.
  • The top 50 were then selected for this list based on length and organized roughly from shortest to longest (based on the number of characters).
  • The number in parenthesis at the end of each line depicts the number of non-branded words included in their mission statement.
  • In order to standardize the list, we removed things like “[Brand’s] mission is” or “The mission statement of [Brand]” when it created redundancy.

Related Articles:

30 Example Vision Statements
Guide to Creating a Mission Statement