Nonprofit Mission Statements – Good and Bad Examples

Off the top of your head, what’s your mission statement?

Don’t cheat. Don’t look.

…that’s what we thought. Most of us probably don’t have any idea.

Sadly, for 99% of us, no one outside of our nonprofit knows what our mission statement is either, because it just isn’t that memorable. But you can avoid that fate if you take some time to learn from your peers.

Let’s analyze, in-depth, some good and bad examples of nonprofit mission statements. But first, let’s chat about why your mission statement is useful in the first place.

The Attributes of Good and Bad Mission Statements

good and bad nonprofit mission statements chart

Your mission statement is a way of summing up your nonprofit to the outside world.

In many ways, a mission statement is a kind of PR move: a way to position your organization as memorable and unique. What’s the one thing you want your organization to be known for in the world?

More importantly, what’s the message that already resonates with your donors and true fans?

The 3 Pivotal Elements of a Great Mission Statement

mission statement elements

1. A Cause or Who You Serve (What matters? Who is important?)

2. An Action (What are you doing?)

3. A Result (What change can you see?)

These three elements unite the best mission statements, and typically, ONLY these elements. (Though often, one or more element is only implied.)

Nonprofits like to make their mission statements complex, but the truth is complexity doesn’t make something valuable.

That’s why these three elements are so useful: this is YOUR nonprofit, distilled to its essence. It’s a little elevator pitch: it’s not supposed to tell everything about your nonprofit. It’s supposed to get people interested in hearing more.

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Ok, this is what you’re really here for. Let’s look at mission statements from well-known organizations.


We’re a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Verdict: This happens to be a really great mission statement: it is simple, emotional and contains all three elements:

charity water mission statement analysis

There’s a problem. There’s hope. The nonprofit is the solution, but only if YOU, the potential donor—help us out.

Springboard for the Arts:

“Springboard for the Arts is an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists. Our work is about building stronger communities, neighborhoods, and economies, and we believe that artists are an important leverage point in that work. Springboard for the Arts’ mission is to cultivate vibrant communities by connecting artists with the skills, information, and services they need to make a living and a life.”

Verdict: Rework. This is a cause we can really get behind–using art to build vibrant communities. Awesome! But wouldn’t the mission be clearer if it wasn’t so long? A few of these sentences could be combined into a killer, inspiring mission statement–which could also be tweetable!


Just do it.

Verdict: Brilliant. Nike just did it. You’re inspired to go buy some sneakers and use that gym membership now, aren’t you? Same here.

The Women’s Center

The mission of The Women’s Center is to improve significantly the psychological, career, financial and legal well being of women, men, couples and families, regardless of their ability to pay.

Verdict: Rework. While this statement brims with goodwill, its language is so expansive it’s difficult to tell what The Women’s Center actually does on a daily basis, or whom they serve.

Very little about this statement inspires action–because you aren’t sure what action there is to take! They’re doing something awesome, but I don’t know what. Keep it simple folks!

5 Quick Tests For Your Mission Statement

1. Say It Out Loud

This alone tells you a lot about your statement. Is it easy to say? Does it roll off the tongue? Or are you bored before you finish saying it?

2. Memory

Tell a friend or employee your statement or have them read it out loud. Talk about something unrelated for a minute. Then ask them to tell you the statement again. If they can’t get it close, you have more work to do.

3. Crowdsource

Find multiple people who don’t know your cause and have them evaluate your statement. Do they get it? Do several people (whose opinions you respect) have similar suggestions for changes?

4. When Can You Shut Your Doors?

Look at your mission statement. Based on this statement, when will your nonprofit declare “mission accomplished?” Is there a clear end point where you’ll be able to happily disband your nonprofit and have an epic party, because you’ve succeeded? If you don’t have an end goal, your mission might be too vague.

Test 5: “You too?”

If someone could read your mission statement and say, “You too?” your mission statement is too broad. Refine it. Your organization does (or should) have something no other organization offers. What is it?

The Most Important Thing to Remember

The most important thing to remember… is that your mission statement isn’t enough. It’s easy to set sexy goals for your organization, create a nonprofit strategy and then never stop planning.

At the end of the day, what matters most is taking action.

You have a mission.

Now go accomplish it.

Post your mission statement in the comments below – let’s critique our statements together. Hint: Use the 5 Quick Tests above, and look at the opening chart. Do you pass? Do you need to revise your statement? Let’s all work together to craft awesome statements. 

  • Radian

    Radian provides professional and technical assistance in the support of the development and implementation of community initiatives that directly improve the built environment, livability and sustainability in underserved neighborhoods.

    I think I failed, to long and jargony…..

    • Marc Koenig

      Thanks for sharing and being brutally honest with yourself. It takes guts to say “the way we’re talking about our mission isn’t getting people excited!” rather than “I guess this is fine.”

      How can you take the jargon down a notch or two? Who are you really serving, simply? What are you doing? How does the world change?

      Note: we usually start out with way too many words, so I’d actually encourage that. Put it all out on the page. Then cut back one word at a time to get to the core message. Thanks for sharing.

  • Andrew M

    “Children’s Home: Giving children a childhood and future by protecting them, teaching them and healing them, and by building strong communities and loving families.”

    I think it’s a bit vague and definitely too long, but I kind of inherited it from my predecessors. The abbreviated version used more commonly in letters and newsletters is “Giving children a childhood and future,” which is concise and easy to remember but doesn’t really cover the “how.”

    • Marc Koenig

      I think your self-assessment is on the money. “Giving children a childhood and future” is nice and succinct but more details would give it urgency.

      “Protecting, educating and sheltering the families of the Y community to give our children a childhood and a future.”
      “Giving our children a childhood and a future by sheltering, educating and protecting the families of Y.”

      I’m drawing a blank, but maybe this will help you get started. I’m starting to think “giving our children a childhood and future” is good enough for simplifying a multifacted mission, especially if you add a qualifier (e.g., “Giving our disadvantaged children a childhood and a future”). What do you think?

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Love, love, love this, and will spread the word. Thanks for putting it out there so clearly and succinctly!

    • Marc Koenig

      Thanks Nancy! Rally the troops!

  • Marion Conway

    Thanks for this to the point article about mission statements. The examples are excellent.

    • Marc Koenig

      Thanks, Marion! They were handpicked with love.

  • genpatton

    Your feedback is greatly appreciated:

    We are a non profit organization that enables youth ages 12 – 17 years with the necessary skills to be positive and productive members of the community. We provide a holistic and dynamic approach in working with youth that will enhance their capacity to develop and strengthen positive behaviors and to make healthier life choices.

    • Marc Koenig

      I feel like this could be little fresher and more personal. Here are my tips:

      - “Youth ages 12-17″ is pretty specific for a mission statement. Remember, this isn’t what you’re telling someone who’s formally applying to one of your programs: a mission statement exists simply to get people interested and intrigued to know more. “Youth” or “teens” or “young people” would probably be fine here.

      - Holistic and dynamic are buzz words that don’t add any emotional punch. Ax ‘em!

      - How’s something like this: “We help teenagers develop the skills necessary to live healthier, wholer lives.” Consider that a starting place if you want to get more specific. Just know you don’t need to say everything, just make that first impact! Thanks for sharing.

      • genpatton

        I appreciate the feedback Marc, we’ll give it another try.

        • Marc Koenig

          Of course! I’m sure you guys are doing awesome things – excited to see you tell your story just as awesomely.

  • Cindy

    Caregivers Rock

    • Marc Koenig

      Cindy – a fine sentiment! Now you just need a mission statement (with the 3 elements we talk through above) to accompany it.

  • AnnaHart

    Giving younger generations the knowledge, compassion, and ability to create a new era without stigma for those with mental illness.

    Does “for those with mental illness” need to be in there?

    • pjalama

      IMO, yes. Without the words “mental illness,” I’d be like, huh? What’s your cause? Prisoners reintegrating into society? Acceptance of people of different races or sexual orientations? General niceness?

  • Joscelyn S

    Keeping children safe, strengthening families, and building healthy communities since 1899. (For a child welfare/adoption/social services agency)

    • pjalama

      I like that one!

  • Beth

    The Center of Y is a youth-driven teen center dedicated to improving the lives of teens by offering programs and activities promoting personal growth and community involvement.

  • GirlzLife Board

    GirlzLife empowers at-risk girls to overcome the challenges of negative influences and create a positive change within themselves and their communities.

  • Kim Jones

    We are a nonprofit organization compassionately dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by testicular cancer along with educating others about the importance of awareness and early detection and continuing to save lives.

  • Shaina Watson

    Our mission is providing underprivileged children with love, resources, and knowledge to help them succeed
    and become all that God has called them to be.

  • Kate Wieland

    Our mission is to develop, own and manage affordable housing and provide
    support services to help individuals succeed in life.

  • Michael Wilson

    The mission of IBPSA-USA is to advance and promote the science of building simulation in order to improve the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of new and existing buildings in the United States.

    First day on the job (today) as the first ED of a 10 year old organization that has been all volunteer until now. In 2 weeks we have a board retreat for strategic planning and want to start with mission/vision. Your comments welcome…thanks!

  • Kathy

    We are
    a NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION compassionately dedicated TO improving the lives of Those

  • Bridget Carter

    We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to motivate, educate, and the developmemt of kidney disease awareness to kidney failure patients, at risk individuals, and their families.

    • Julie

      We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of kidney disease awareness as well as the education and motivation of kidney failure patients, at-risk individuals, and their families.

  • Stephanie Henry

    “To enrich the lives of the intellectually and
    developmentally disabled through farming while providing respite for

    I work with a farm that teaches adults with autism to grow and care for produce as well as other aspects of farming. The farm also emphasizes socialization, teamwork, and a “breather” for caretakers. Any ideas/input would be great. I think it’s really missing the punch.

    • Julie

      I actually think it’s quite good, Stephanie. The only aspect it’s missing from your description is the socialization/teamwork side and I don’t how that could be added. “Cooperative farming” has a different meaning, “team farming” sounds funny. “farming in groups?”

  • Derrionn Anderson

    We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping young girls off of the streets by providing a dance, modeling, singing and acting after school program.

    • pjalama

      I partly like it, but “providing” sends my brain to sleep. How about, “We keep young girls off the streets and creative” or “We keep young girls off the streets and active in after-school dance, modeling, singing, and acting.”
      Pauline Alama, Freelance Writer

  • Mai Le

    “Our mission is to Inspire and educate audiences around the world by creatively uniting underground music and dance.” And thanks for this great article!

  • Nicolas Hockenberry

    “Climb On’s mission is to bring the physical and emotional
    benefits of rock climbing and adventure activities to the under-served youth of Dubuque”

  • Debbie Beyer

    The mission of the Columbus Dance Theatre is “o enrich the
    cultural life of our community through a resident professional company,
    and educational programming, and as an umbrella organization for the dance
    community.” How would you rework this??

  • April W

    T.C.C.U(Teens can Change Us) provide teens with information and motivation to help them help the world.

  • Anthology Coms

    Agree with most of the points here except Just DO It isn’t a mission statement, value proposition or message. It’s a slogan. Which is totally different. Nike’s actual mission statement is – Nike’s mission statement is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”

    The legendary University of Oregon track and field coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

    • Randy Hawthorne

      You bring up an excellent point. I love Nike’s mission and have used it as an example of a brilliant and inspiring mission.

      • Anthology Coms

        Agreed. Clients are always asking the difference between, slogan, message, Brand positioning statement, etc. So right now it is just particularly relevant for me.

  • Randy Hawthorne

    It’s so awesome to see you helping each other out on these posts.

  • Gail Strumberger

    Stand Back Ltd. helps artists without resources build a career in entertainment by giving them work space, mentors, industry connections, opportunity, and community support.

    (Thoughts?) Thank you!

  • Gail Strumberger

    Stand Back Ltd. helps artisans without resources build a career in special effects by giving them work space, mentors, industry connections, opportunity, and community support.

  • David Ivey

    AlmostFreeCollege Inc is a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals earn their college degree as inexpensively as possible.

  • CJ

    Unknown Miracles is a non profit organization who is committed to providing the highest level of hospitality to expecting mothers. We reassure expecting mothers that they will have access to everyday essentials their baby may need in the first days of life.

  • Rene’ Michelle

    We are a nonprofit organization that is passionate about our purpose. Which is bringing awareness to Domestic violence, Sexual assault and Molestation. To also help people that have suffered and or are still suffering from these things, to recover and become productive member’ s of society.

  • Clarence Merk

    We are dedicated to the marine salvage resurrection of “The Alice Dean”, a 441 ton steam side-wheeler, sunk in 1863 by John Hun Morgan, and providing a final resting place in Meade County, Kentucky and or Harrison County, Indiana; leaving an indelible footnote to the brave men who fought this forgotten civil war battle.

  • Friend

    Building Our Lives Together (BOLT)- Our mission is to prepare young people by instilling in them the knowledge of simple hand tools.

    • Denise Flynn

      “Friend” I was interested but one question went unanswered. I am not sure what teaching simple hand tools prepares young people to do. “BOLT instills young people with the knowledge of simple hand tools to…” (Increase independence by stretching their income? Save the environment by reusing rather than replacing?)

      • Randy Hawthorne

        I’m interested in also knowing the audience a little more intimately. Young people is very broad. Toddlers? PreK? Young people with disabilities? Sounds like a great project!

        • Friend

          Thanks Randy

      • Friend

        Denise does my reply answer your questions?

    • Friend

      Denise and Randy our objective is to teach young people mainly between the ages of 8 & 16 the proper usage of simple hand tools by involving them in projects such as repairing bicycles, building club houses and model robots, etc. It’s becoming common these days that I encounter young men that are not able to repair something as simple as changing a flat tire. Do you all really think this is something seriously needed in our communities???

    • Lynique M

      Remake- I Tried To Re-Word, Hope It helped.

      Preparing adolescents to use hand tools by educating and instilling knowledge of proper use.

      • Friend

        Lynique M I really like this thanks!!!

  • Whitney Macdonald

    “We are a non profit working to fight childhood obesity and
    bring food literacy back into the classroom by using a hands on approach to
    cooking with real, fresh, not processed food.”

  • Marin Recovery Project

    access to community services and provides needed support to anyone seeking
    recovery from substance use in order to create a lasting change in people’s
    lives and the community we serve.

  • Yasmine

    We’re a non-profit organization in the philadelphia area providing a safe haben for inner city youth we’re we can tell our story one youth at a time.

  • sabrina

    “Empowering the next generation of girls to become future leaders and
    business owners in STEM industries”
    This statement is for a non profit that I am in the works of starting. I’m looking for a catchy mission but I’m still not sure if this is a good mission statement of is this more of a vision statement. Any and all suggestions and comments would be helpful. This is a nonprofit that I am starting for underprivileged girls to get them excited about science, tech, and math careers. To narrow that gender gap.