Developing Mission and Vision Statements

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

VisionMissionConcept description

Creating a vision and mission statements are the first two steps in the VMOSA action planning process (see VMOSA – Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans).

Jenette Nagy and Stephen Fawcett, writing in Community Tool Box (reference below), say that developing effective vision and mission statements are two of the most important tasks an organization will ever do, because almost everything else will be affected by these statements. Application of Nagy and Fawcett’s advice need not be restricted to community organizations. It can be applied to strategic planning in a wide variety of public management contexts.

Nagy and Fawcett suggest how to create vision and mission statements as follows:

Learn what is important to people in the community

“There are many different ways you can gather this information, including:

  • Conduct “public forums” or “listening sessions” with members of the community to gather ideas, thoughts, and opinions about how they would like to see the community transformed.
  • Hold focus groups with the people interested in addressing the issue(s), including community leaders, people most affected by the issues, businesses, church leaders, teachers, etc.
  • Obtain interviews with people in leadership and service positions, including such individuals as local politicians, school administrators, hospital and social service agency staff, about what problems or needs they believe exist in your community.

“Of course, these different ways to gather information from you community aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, if you have the resources, it makes sense to do all of the above: to have some time for the community at large to respond, then spend more time in focus groups with the people you believe might contribute greatly to (or be most affected by) some of the issues brought up in your community listening session.

Decide what to ask

“No matter if you are talking to one person or 300, your purpose is the same: to learn what matters in your community. Here’s a list of questions you might use to focus your discussions with community members. These questions may be used for individual interviews, focus groups, public forums, or in any other way you choose to gather information.

  • What is your dream for our community?
  • What would you like to see change?
  • What kind of community (or program, policy, school, neighborhood, etc.) do we want to create?
  • What do you see as the community’s (or school’s, neighborhood’s, etc.) major issues or problems?
  • What do you see as the community’s major strengths and assets?
  • What do you think should be the purpose of this organization (or effort)?
  • Why should these issues be addressed?
  • What would success look like?

“When your organization is questioning people, the facilitator should encourage everyone to allow their most idealistic, hopeful, and positive ideas to shine through. Don’t worry right now about what’s practical and what’s not – this can be narrowed down later. Encourage everyone to be bold and participate, and to remember that you are trying to articulate a vision of a better community, and a better world.

Decide on the general focus of your organization

“Once members of your organization have heard what the community has to say, it’s time to decide the general focus of your organization or initiative. First of all, what topic is most important to your organization and your community? For example, will you tackle urban development or public health issues? Racism or economic opportunity?

“A second question you will need to answer is at what level will your organization work. Will your organization begin only in one school, or in one neighborhood, or in your city? Or will your initiative’s focus be broader, working on a state, national, or even international level.

“These are questions for which there are no easy answers. Your organization will need to consider what it has learned from the community, and decide through thoughtful discussion the best direction for your organization. We suggest you open this discussion up to everyone in your organization to obtain the best results.

Develop your vision statements

“First of all, remind members of your organization that it often takes several vision statements to fully capture the dreams of those involved in a community improvement effort. You don’t need – or even want – to have just one “perfect” phrase. Encourage people to suggest all of their ideas, and write them down – possibly on poster paper at the front of the room, so people can be further inspired by the ideas of others. As you do this, help everyone keep in mind:

  • What you have learned from your discussions with community members
  • What your organization has decided will be your focus
  • What you learned about vision statements at the beginning of this section

“After you have brainstormed a lot of ideas, your group can discuss critically the different ideas. Oftentimes, several of the vision statements will just jump out at you – someone will suggest it, and people will just instantly think, “That’s it!”

“You can also ask yourselves the following questions about vision statements:

  • Will it draw people to common work?
  • Does it give hope for a better future?
  • Will it inspire community members to realize their dreams through positive, effective action?
  • Does it provide a basis for developing the other aspects of your action planning process?

“A final caution: try not to get caught up in having a certain number of vision statements for your organization. Whether you ultimately end up with two vision statements or ten, what is most important is that the statements together give a holistic view of the vision of your organization.

Develop your mission statements

“The process of writing your mission statement is much like that for developing your vision statements. The same brainstorming process can help you develop possibilities for your mission statement. Remember, though, that unlike with vision statements, you will want to develop a single mission statement for your work. After having brainstormed for possible statements, you will want to ask of each one:

  • Does it describe what your organization will do and why it will do it?
  • Is it concise (one sentence)?
  • Is it outcome oriented?
  • Is it inclusive of the goals and people who may become involved in the organization?

“Together, your organization can decide on a statement that best meets these criteria.

Obtain consensus on your vision and mission statements

“Once members of your organization have developed your vision and mission statements, your next step might be to learn what other members of your community think of them before you start to use them regularly.

“To do this, you could talk to the same community leaders or focus group members you spoke to originally. First of all, this can help you ensure that they don’t find the statements offensive in any way. … Second, you will want to ensure that community members agree that the statements together capture the spirit of what they believe and desire. Your organization might find it has omitted something very important by mistake.

Decide how you will use your vision and mission statements

“Finally, it’s important to remember that while developing the statements is a huge step for your organization (and one you should celebrate!), there is more work to be done. Next, you have to decide how to use these statements. Otherwise, all of your hard work will have happening for nothing. The point is to get the message across.

“There are many, many ways in which your organization may choose to spread its vision and mission statements. To name just a few examples, you might:

  • Add them to your letterhead or stationary
  • Use them on your website
  • Give away T-shirts, or bookmarks, or other small gifts with them
  • Add them to your press kit
  • Use them when you give interviews
  • Display them on the cover of your annual report

…and so on. Again, this is a step that will use all of your creativity.”


Jenette Nagy and Stephen B Fawcett, Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements, Community Tool Box, at, accessed 21 March 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Strategizing (core topic) in Leadership Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 24 March 2016.

Image: Darryl Cooke, Should we bin Mission Statements, at, accessed 21 March 2016.