When it comes to making a valuable difference in your nonprofit’s community, you understand the influence a mission statement can have. A mission statement sets the tone for your nonprofit and gives it a goal to run for. However, when it comes to actually moving the organization forward in its efforts, nothing works better than a vision statement.

While a vision and mission statement are similar, they also have very distinct characteristics. Mission statements are predominantly based on the present, while vision statements focus on the future of the organization. The mission statement explains why the NPO exists, but a vision statement focuses on the values and intentions you want to carry into the future. And while the mission statement shares the nonprofit’s purpose with constituents and outsiders, a vision statement is much more directed towards the organization’s internal team members.

For example, take a look at the difference between Ronald McDonald’s House’s mission and vision statements:

Our Mission:

The mission of RMHC is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.

Our Vision:

A world where all children have access to medical care, and their families are supported and actively involved in their children’s care.

While their mission statement says what they do, their vision statement says what they aspire to do. Though both mission and vision are critical to the success of a nonprofit, a vision statement can often get swept under the rug and forgotten. Because a vision statement is vital to the success of a nonprofit, let’s explore how to craft a compelling vision statement that can help drive your mission forward.

Keep your values in mind.

Before you begin writing a vision statement, consider the values your nonprofit organization holds. What do you care most about in the world? What do you want others to think about your NPO? Core values also guide where the organization wants to go in the future and how it will behave along the way. Make a list and identify words related to your nonprofit’s culture, purpose and values, then keep those at the forefront of your mind as you begin to craft a compelling vision statement.

Find a need to fill.

Once you have the values in mind, identify the need—or needs—the organization fills in the community. Who are your main clients? How do you help solve issues they face? How do you make a direct impact on the community? In the example of Ronald McDonald House, they fill a need for families whose children require medical care, so they include it in their vision statement. The need you fill should be a core component of the vision. After all, you can’t have a vision for the future if you don’t first know what you will do. Determine which cause the NPO addresses and consider how to include it in the vision statement.

Visualize the future.

Then, visualize the future for the nonprofit organization. Ideally, the vision statement should reflect what the NPO will look like in five to ten years. However, the length of time can also vary depending on the nonprofit’s cause and overall mission. The vision statement literally visualizes where you want the organization to be, so identify where it is now, and what you want it to look like in the future.

Dream (realistically) big.

As you begin to visualize the future, don’t be afraid to dream big for the organization. What would you accomplish if nothing was standing in the way? Dream big… realistically. As you craft the vision statement, be sure to balance ambition with realism. The vision statement should be big enough to excite people, but also realistic enough so it could actually be accomplished. If the vision statement doesn’t seem achievable, you might have a tough time getting fellow team members and constituents on board with the cause.

Set a timeline.

If applicable to the idealized vision, set a timeline for when you would like to accomplish it. This can hold you and the NPO accountable moving forward. On the flipside, a vision without any time restraints at all could never be accomplished, and no one would even realize it. By setting a timeline, you can also set smaller, more distinct goals which help move the organization in the right direction.

Use simple, short language.

When drafting the vision statement, use simple, clear and concise language. Avoid being overly wordy or too complicated. Instead, focus on limiting the statement to one sentence of about 10 to 15 words. By avoiding lengthy and complicated wording, you ensure the vision statement is as clear as possible for people to understand, and easy to memorize and implement for fellow team members.

Share the vision with others.

Finally, once the vision statement is thoroughly drafted and finalized, share it with others! Depending on your NPO, you could choose to communicate the vision statement with only team and board members, or you could share it with all constituents, donors and volunteers. By communicating the vision statement with others, you ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward, and the organization is held accountable for accomplishing goals for the future.

As your nonprofit organization grows and adapts to its surroundings, don’t be afraid to update the vision statement as well. Your vision statement should consistently adapt to reflect the goals you want to achieve, making it as effective as possible. A compelling vision statement is a critical component to accomplishing your goals. As you move forward, be sure your vision statement is drafted appropriately and ready to further grow the mission.

Want to learn more about how to build a successful and effective nonprofit? Firespring can help! We offer helpful materials, webinars and seminars on how your nonprofit can market itself to further its cause. Find out more by calling 877.447.8941 or email hello@firespring.com.