Boards are responsible for the who, what, when, where, and why of the organisations they serve. Prescribing a purpose to a charity or not-for-profit organisation is a public commitment to prioritising that organisation’s goals. Boards that outline their goals and plan out how they intend to achieve them will keep board members on track to attain those goals, resulting in a clear vision paving the way for a smooth execution.
What is a Vision Statement?
A vision statement is what introduces the organisation’s purpose to the world. It is crucial for the success of an organisation, yet some not-for-profit organisations do not make the effort to declare a vision statement. It is a written document or statement that describes where an organisation is going and what it will look like when it gets there.
A quality vision statement is aligned with the not-for-profit’s mission, core values, and culture. It is clear, concise, and forward-thinking, while also covering a broad range of topics.
Boards looking to create their first vision statement, may want to consider various questions:
- What is the organisation’s purpose?
- What goals can the organisation achieve?
- How does the mission statement align with your core values?
- How does the vision statement align with the board’s culture?
- Do your long-term plans have the capacity to pan out?
Why is a Vision Statement important?
The board relies on the vision statement when making strategic plans and decisions. Staff and volunteers also look to the vision statement for long-term direction; donors read it when deciding whether to support your not-for-profit or charity.
A vision statement is designed to be shared and something to be proud of. It communicates your organisation’s values and commitment to achieving its goals.
Don’t Let Bad Vision Blindside Your Board
The most notable difference between a mission statement and a vision statement is the timeframe. A mission statement is all about what is happening now. A vision statement, on the other hand, is all about what could happen in the future from actions that leaders take now.
When it comes to an organisation’s vision statement, it’s all about substance, not size. A good vision statement can be any length, what matters is how clearly the goals are stated. Outlining various goals in the mission and vision statements can help determine which objectives will end up as short-term goals and which fall under long-term goals.
The Difference Between Setting Short and Long-term Goals
Short-term goals are often small projects that pop up or little bursts of progress made by inching towards a larger goal. Long-term goals often take over a year to accomplish, maybe even up to five or ten years, so it is important for charities to track their progress along the way.
Understanding the difference between short-term and long-term goals must be a top priority for leaders. It is important to differentiate between the two as longer-term goals will require more strategic planning to accomplish.
What is Strategic Planning and How Does It Relate to The Vision?
“Strategic planning is a systematic process that helps effective leaders set an ambition for their business’ future and determine how best to achieve it,” according to Northern Ireland Business Info; the primary purpose of strategic planning is to connect the dots between the organisation’s mission, vision, and plan.
Just as there are benefits for charities setting short term goals, such as the ability to break down larger goals turning them into smaller and more manageable tasks, there are many benefits of setting long-term goals for your charity. The UK Charity Commission outlines guidance for trustees to make sure charities act in a way that moves their organisation closer to its intended mission as they execute their plans.
- Understand the purpose of their charity as it is stated in their charity’s governing document
- Plan how best to serve the charity’s purpose to achieve the mission
- Be prepared to relate all activities back to the purpose
20 Examples of Vision Statements to Inspire You
We have picked out vision statements from different not-for-profits in the UK, Ireland, Africa and elsewhere to give you inspiration as you craft yours:
- Oxfam – For a more equal future.
- Holywell Trust – For a truly inclusive shared future.
- Danish Refugee Council – For a dignified life for all displaced.
- International Rescue Committee – For a high-impact, cost effective solutions that help people affected by crisis.
- Sentebale – For all children and young people in Southern Africa to be empowered, healthy and resilient.
- Ireland’s National Autism Charity (AsIAM} – For Ireland to be a country where every Autistic person is accepted as they are.
- Credit Europe Bank – To support midsized corporates and commodity trading companies in developed and selected emerging markets to make them feel empowered.
- The Halo Trust – For a world where people can thrive in peace and dignity without fear from the impact of conflict.
- Nedbank – To be the most admired financial services provider in Africa by our staff, clients, shareholders, regulators, and society.
- University of Lagos – To be a top-class institution for the pursuit of excellence in knowledge, character and service to humanity.
- POTSUK – To optimise the health and quality of life of everyone impacted by Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
- University of Cape Coast – To be a university with a worldwide acclaim that is strongly positioned for innovative teaching, research, outreach, and professional development.
- Visionary – For a world in which people living with sight loss can access what they need at local level where and when they need it.
- Red Sea Global – To become the world’s most responsible developer, by trailblazing new global standards which see built environments become enablers for social and ecological transformation.
- British Red Cross – For a world where everyone gets the help they need in a crisis. More than 21,500 volunteers and 4,100 staff at the British Red Cross work together to help individuals and communities prepare for, cope with, and recover from emergencies.
- United Nations – To keep peace throughout the world, to develop friendly relations among nations, to help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms, to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals.
- Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) – To influence, to inspire, and support the credit union movement to achieve all its goals – social, economic and cultural – while always respecting the individual’s rights and dignity.
- University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education – To be a global centre of excellence for lifelong learning. Courses will be underpinned by the best teaching, research, and support for learning to meet the needs of diverse, ambitious and intellectually curious students. Staff and students will work together within and beyond Oxford to foster a vibrant learning community attentive to the importance of promoting sustainability and social justice.
- Santen – To become a social innovator in ophthalmology and address social and economic issues related to eye health by strategically exploring advancing technologies and collaborating with key leaders around the world. Underpinned by its people-centric values, Santen aims to ultimately deliver happiness with vision – a life with the best vision experience for every individual.
- Habitat for Humanity Great Britain – To underpin every objective, project, and partnership we pursue. We put belief into action. With courage, passion, and drive, we find practical solutions. We believe in accountability. We treat every partner with transparency, honesty, and candour. We believe in self-reliance. We place integrity and mutual respect at the heart of everything we do. We believe in collaboration We deliver on our mission through partnership. We believe in continuous improvement. We focus on learning, sustainability, and innovation to exceed expectations.
These examples show us there’s loads of variety when it comes to which values the charity and not-for-profit organisations are choosing to include in their vision statements. Leaders need to consider the strategic planning that is needed to carry out the mission and determine whether their vision statements are realistic. Once everyone agrees on the vision statement it should be saved along with the mission statement in your board management system like BoardEffect for board members to refer as needed.