A mission statement is a simple phrase that effectively shares the purpose of an organization. A mission statement helps people outside the organization to understand what it does, why it does it, and how.

How long is a mission statement?

The best mission statements fully capture the purpose of an organization with very few well-chosen words. Most mission statements contain only a few sentences.

A mission statement says what you do

A mission statement should clearly communicate what an organization does. Let's use a food bank as an example. What does a food bank do? The food bank distributes free food to people who need it.

A mission statement says how you do it

It's also really important for people to understand a bit about how you do what you do. To use the food bank example again, the food bank collects healthy donated food items, organizes them, and distributes them to the public on certain days of the week.

A mission statement says why you do it

The most important element of a great mission statement communicates why the organization does its work. People want to understand the purpose of group and are often motivated to engage with compelling causes. Again, for the food bank, it operates because its members believe access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life is a human right.

Here are the parts of a mission statement

What

The food bank distributes free food to people who need it.

How

The food bank collects healthy donated food items, organizes them, and distributes them to the public on certain days of the week.

Why

The food bank believes access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life is a human right.

All together

The food bank believes access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life is a human right. The food bank collects healthy donated food items, organizes them, and distributes them to the public on certain days of the week to people who need it.This mission statement is a very basic version that could be improved with more expressive language, but it has all the fundamental pieces to make it effective.

Tips write a great mission statement

Gather all  your ideas

Don't be too critical of any words or phrases at first. Collect all your ideas in one place so you and your collaborators can evaluate them together.

Take each part one at a time

Start with what, that's usually the easiest. Move on to how, and finish with why.

Be specific, avoid clichés

Especially when writing about why you do what you do, it can be easy to fall back on phrases and expressions that are too commonly used, which can take away from the power of your mission statement. Try to link the why to the specific reason or circumstances that caused the organization to form in the first place.

Get feedback

Share versions of the draft mission statement with lots of people. Make sure they have different levels of involvement with the organization. Share the statement, ask them what they think, and have them try to repeat it back to you from memory. More memorable statements are a good sign because it means they're the right length (short!) and you've done a good job adding language that sticks in the listeners mind.

Mission statement examples

Here are a few we really like from famous organizations:

Patagonia (clothing brand)

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

AirBnb.com

Airbnb's mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we are focused on creating an end-to-end travel platform that will handle every part of your trip.

Canva.com

Canva is an online design and publishing tool with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.