Defining Your Association’s Mission, Vision and Values

by Colleen Bottorff

In the association space, it often seems like the words “mission statement,” “vision statement,” and “values statement” are thrown around without much context on how they differ from one another. You know that each of these statements represent your organization in some way, but maybe not their exact purpose.

We believe it’s important to define these qualities about your association — to provide value to your members and let your board to know what you stand for as a whole – and isn’t that the goal?

So, let’s get to it: Mission vs. Vision vs. Value.

Your Mission Statement
(Translation: Why do we exist?)

We believe that, first and foremost, your association should focus on “the why.” Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Analogy provides a great way to think about why your organization is doing something and for what purpose. The idea is, if you focus on your why, you will get to the core of your association’s reason for existing. Knowing this answer will allow you to clarify to your board, your members, and your audience the ultimate goal your association is working toward.

Still feeling uncertain? Think of it this way: What are you providing your target audience and why?

You could also follow this basic template for your mission statement: Our mission is to (verb) (your audience) by (actions you want to accomplish).

Your Vision Statement
(Translation: What is your goal?)

When thinking about your association’s vision statement, you should be asking yourself: What is our end goal? Often people confuse this statement with the mission, understandably. The best way to remember is that the mission is what you are doing in the present, where as the vision is what you want for the future.

Another great way to remember how to define your vision is to think about how your association will help your community. It’s easy to assume that your vision statement only needs to describe how your association will be the best; however, that doesn’t do a lot to help the people in your association’s members, board, and audience.

Instead, try to think about what problem you want to solve and how you can provide support to that cause.

Here’s a basic template for your vision statement: Our vision is a (community/world) where (you no longer have the problem that your association fixes).

Your Value Statement
(Translation: How will we accomplish it?)

After you come up with your mission statement and vision statement, we recommend taking a look at how you want your association to meet these goals. You want to make sure that your values are reflecting what type of community you want to construct in your other statements. What do you want them to emphasize?

As an example, we have eight values that we focus to ensure that we are providing the quality of work we’d want to receive ourselves. Our values are 1) accountability, 2) curiosity, 3) service, 4) equity, 5) forgiveness, 6) optimism, 7) simplicity, and 8) transparency. Having these guidelines allows us to take a moment and think about if we are accomplishing our goals in a way that aligns with what matters most to us.

One method we recommend to come up with your values is to ask yourself: What qualities are most important in your association – this or that?

Best Practices

So, now that you’re thinking about your three statements, how can you use them? Here are some ways that you can put your statements into action where they will be beneficial to your organization:

  • Use them as a sounding board for your tough questions at your board/committee meetings
  • Use them to evaluate your board members / ED / CEO
  • Use them to define what you stand for as an association to the public

Ultimately, you’ll know the voice of your association better than anyone else. Trust yourself (and your board) to use your statements as a compass to define the why (mission), the what (vision), and the how (values).

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