short, a mission is a purpose while a vision is a dream. A mission clarifies
the organizations purpose, i.e., what it is doing and why it is
doing what it does. The vision, on the other hand, clarifies how the organization
wants to look and how it should act in the future to fulfill its mission;
it communicates enthusiasm and provides the organization with something
to aspire to.
vision of Women for Women is to help women refugees in any war
situation build up their lives and stand on their feet. Based on this,
the mission explains what Women for Women wants to do and how.
It is similar to a personal dream: if, for example, someone wants to become
a member of parliament within five years (vision) everything she or he
will work for is to help her/him reach that position (mission).
vision can be wide and contain various aspects of the dream
that is to be accomplished, while the mission needs to be more specific.
Several organizations might have the same vision but their respective
missions to accomplish their goals could each have a different focus.
For example, the vision of womens organizations is usually to empower
women, whereby some of them might focus on legal issues, while others
might emphasize social or economic aspects or concentrate on training
and skills development.
importance of the mission is that it specifies the organizations
purpose as well as the philosophy and values that guide it. Bryson argues
that "unless the purpose is focused on socially useful and justifiable
ends, the organization cannot hope to identify the resources it needs
to survive, including high quality and committed employees." A mission
that is genuine will create enthusiasm and excitement within the organization,
whether amongst stakeholders, staff or board members. In staff interviews
one should examine whether the applicant agrees with what the organization
is doing, because someone who cares and believes in what the organization
stands for will do a far better job.
a mission statement helps in solving conflicts within an organization.
Since the mission provides guidelines regarding the needs, purpose and
activities of the organization, it functions not only as an accepted base
of shared values but also puts personal views and assumptions in context.
drafting a mission statement, a stakeholder analysis should be done in
order to verify the required services. It is similar to market research:
the collection of information about clients and their needs will help
the decision-makers clarify and define the organizations arena of
action. Similar analyses for funders or staff, etc., can be equally useful.
stakeholder analysis does not have to include everyone but should be based
on a random sample that represents a variety of ages and economic backgrounds.
For example, a staff survey should include representatives from among
the junior staff, the senior staff, the management, and program assistants
or volunteers. Even if an organization is newly established, a stakeholder
analysis is useful: at the beginning there is a vision and accordingly,
there are potential stakeholders, i.e., the people or target group one
would like to serve or else work with.
are different ways of doing a stakeholder analysis. One method involves
conducting a survey, asking the stakeholders about their
needs and demands, how they evaluate the organization and its programs
(satisfactory or not, helpful or not, etc.), and what kind of additional
projects they would suggest. Such surveys can also include an evaluation
of the organizations impact on the stakeholders, for example by
looking at how much money they had before as compared to after a project
or how an employment strategy fits in with the demand for jobs. If the
clients are illiterate, which is often the case in developing countries,
the survey questions can be read to them and answers filled in on their
method is conversation, i.e., going out to the field and
talking to people about their demands, perceptions and suggestions. The
findings and the impression their responses leave should be documented
in a report. The problem with conversation, however, is that people are
often hesitant to say directly what they otherwise would write down in
a more anonymous (open answer) questionnaire.
there is guessing, which is the weakest method because it
is based on personal impressions about what an organization has encountered
during a certain period and not on facts or clear answers resulting from
a questionnaire. Guessing should only be applied to people whose overall
opinion and attitude is familiar territory.
three methods can also be combined. The surveys will provide the stakeholders
opinion in their own words; guessing and predictions from conversation
can gather additional information, which might deviate from or supplement
the survey results. The results of the analysis will give the organization
some direction concerning its positive and negative aspects and should
certainly be presented and discussed during board meetings.
a stakeholder analysis should not be mistaken for an evaluation. It is
only a look at the clients reaction to an organizations performance,
i.e., their responses, feedback, and overall satisfaction. The following
example will illustrate this: In Bosnia, Women for Women ran a
micro-credit project involving women of all ages, many of them illiterate.
Part of the program was a one-week business training course to teach them
organizational, planning and marketing skills. In the beginning they were
annoyed and made comments such as "What are you? A bunch of city
women. Are you going to teach us how to milk the cows? What can you possibly
teach us?" Such initial reactions do not mean that the program had
failed. Later, the program evaluation showed totally different results:
the womens income had increased, and many had learned how to read
and write, etc. Program evaluation measures the success of a project,
not the responses of those involved.
a Mission Statement
mission statement is a declaration of the organizations purpose",
as Bryson puts it. Sometimes a paragraph or two, sometimes more than a
page, its length will depend on what the organization does or wants to
accomplish through its mission statement.
writing the mission statement the following questions should be answered:
Who are we? The first section of a mission statement should
always be about the general identity of the organization. For example,
"Women for Women is an American-based, non-profit, humanitarian,
interfaith organization." The reason is the need to distinguish between
who we are and what we are doing.
What are we doing? The second step should address the basic
socioeconomic, humanitarian or political issues and problems that the
organization intends to tackle or solve. Women for Women, for example,
aims at helping women survivors of war and genocide worldwide. It does
so by providing women with social, economic, political and interpersonal
support. This is very general, but it states exactly what Women for
Women is, does and for whom it does it. While the goal(s) of the organization
should be clear, e.g., empowerment of women, there should
be no detailed listing of programs and projects, such as micro-credit
enterprises or training program. An organization might
change its activities but not the goal.
Why are we doing it? Also included in the mission statement
should be the philosophy, values and the culture behind the organizations
goals or approach. This makes an organization distinctive or unique amongst
other organizations and gives the stakeholders and funders a reason why
it is worth their attention or support. For example, the statement "We
believe education empowers society and the teacher is one of the main
people in the educational process", clearly identifies the underlying
philosophy and values.
an organization cannot come to an immediate agreement on the mission statement
or the process is taking too long, it is advisable to stop and come back
to it later. The strategic plan itself can be pursued along the vision
and purpose of the organization, while the mission statement can be formulated
later in the cycle. At the end of the planning process, the strategic
plan should be re-examined, and it might be only then that the mission
statement receives it final modifications.
the mission outlines the organizations purpose, the vision describes
what the organization will look like in the future. The vision is more
imaginary and requires a visionary leader or group, with the ability to
think long-term. A vision statement forms the framework for an organizations
general philosophy, goals, strategies, ethical standards and performance
criteria. Ideally, a vision statement improves the organizations
effectiveness and productivity because it motivates and guides everyone
involved to work towards a certain goal.
vision statement should:
general (which allows it to survive even in an unstable environment)
short, precise and clear
a promise that the organization will support its members pursuit
of the vision;
the organizations direction and purpose;
on a better future;
high ideals in challenging ambitions;
stress the organizations distinctive and unique components.
trying to formulate a vision statement, the organizations decision-body,
steering committee or other sub-groups could be asked to draft a scenario.
Other methods are to hold brainstorming sessions with various members
of the organization or post notes on the organizations boards, inviting
the employees to comment what they view as most important, and then compile
and put down the major points. This first draft vision should be widely
circulated amongst the organizations members and other key stakeholders;
if the relevant people - stakeholders, board members, or funders - do
not know the vision, it has little effect on the organization. Everyone
must be aware of the vision and apply it to any major and minor organizational
decisions and actions. For the beneficiaries it is also important to know
the vision because it forms criteria for judgment. For example, if an
organization runs a micro-credit program to empower women, the beneficiaries
might think the vision is to provide credit while in fact it is womens
empowerment and the micro-credit program is only one of the smaller pieces
fitting into the larger picture to accomplish the vision. Empowerment
of women is also the vision of Women for Women. If, after ten years,
women in Bosnia have more rights, are economically more independent, and
more active in the political system, then the work was successful.
are part of the society and it is always possible that there are different
actors working in the same field and even towards the same vision. This
is not a problem; for example if there are several womens groups
lobbying to change the divorce law and give women more rights, their number
does not negate the value of their respective work. If they succeed, each
has accomplished its goal.
the vision is accomplished, an organization needs to re-evaluate itself
as well as its environment, and decide whether to change the vision, mission,
and programs, etc.