Mission Statement (What You Do): A one-sentence statement describing the reason an organization or program exists and used to help guide decisions about priorities, actions, and responsibilities.
Many nonprofit mission statements succumb to an over use of words in general, but especially jargon. Good mission statements should be clear, memorable, concise. Some might also add “inspiring” to the list of descriptors. I don’t altogether disagree, but I find that including this as an upfront criteria often ends up with a Frankenstein that is part mission, part vision statement (desired end-state), and almost always too long.
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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.
- The best mission statements are clear, memorable, and concise.
- 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)
50 Mission Statements from Top Nonprofits
TED: Spreading Ideas. (2 words)
Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9 words)
Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer. (8)
Invisible Children: To bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities. (8)
The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. (4)
Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. (10)
Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals. (7)
CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. (12)
The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. (11)
JDRF: To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. (14)
Environmental Defense Fund: To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. (10)
Public Broadcasting System (PBS): To create content that educates, informs and inspires. (8)
National Wildlife Federation: Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. (9)
American Heart Association: To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. (10)
Heifer International: To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. (14)
ASPCA: To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. (15)
Kiva: We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. (16)
New York Public Library: To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. (10)
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. (15)
March of Dimes: We help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies. (16)
Monterey Bay Aquarium: The mission of the non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans. (12)
Amnesty International: To undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights. (15)
American Diabetes Association: To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. (16)
charity: water: We’re a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. (14)
Cleveland Clinic: To provide better care of the sick, investigation into their problems, and further education of those who serve. (18)
In Touch Ministries: To lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church. (17)
Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. (15)
Teach for America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education. (20)
National Parks Conservation Association: to protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations. (13)
Save the Children: To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. (20)
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)
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)
Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. (15)
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)
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)
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)
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. (18)
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)
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)
San Diego Zoo is a conservation, education, and recreation organization dedicated to the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of animals, plants, and their habitats. (20)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people. (20)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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 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.
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“How to Write a Great Mission Statement”: Watch VIDEO