How to write a mission statement to protect your donor intent

A strong, well-crafted mission statement is step number one when it comes to safeguarding your intent. Regardless of your giving timeframe—whether you plan to give while living, sunset your foundation, or operate in perpetuity—a mission statement is essential. It helps your future trustees and heirs answer this fundamental question: What would our founder have done in these circumstances? When you’re not there to answer the question in person, a mission statement does your talking for you.

A number of ingredients go into making an effective mission statement for your philanthropy: Specificity, brevity, clarity, proper supporting documentation, and the input of trusted family members or colleagues, to name a few.

Some of the best mission statements are also the shortest. Broadly speaking, a mission statement should lay out:

• Your philanthropic goals
• Your giving parameters
• A timeframe for your giving
• The values and principles that you wish to characterize your giving

Specific steps you may consider taking to create a more effective mission statement include:

• Be specific and avoid vague wording or phrases too open to misinterpretation
• Ask for input from trusted family members or colleagues
• Include supporting documentation
• Finally, remember that defining a mission is a deliberative process that often requires multiple revisions

Read more:
Why you can’t afford to ignore a mission statement
How Dan Searle protected his donor intent with a mission statement
Mission statement examples: The Peters and Templeton Foundations
Five steps to create an effective mission statement