A thoughtfully crafted mission statement is like a compass. It guides decisions, redirects focus, and encourages everyone on the journey to stay the course. Every Catholic foundation needs a strong mission statement; learn why they matter and how to write yours.
What Is a Foundation Mission Statement?
A mission statement specifies or clarifies the reason your foundation was created; the goal of your giving. What does your foundation do? Your mission statement is the elevator-pitch answer to that question.
The mission statement should influence all philanthropic decisions and criteria for giving. It can include the intended recipients of giving, the geographical area, or other details that designate the scope of giving. It is a simple way to outline how your foundation will exemplify your Catholic values and how your work will spark positive impact in the Church, your community, and the world.
Why Is a Foundation Mission Statement Important?
There are several reasons why your foundation needs a mission statement.
- The IRS requires it. Foundations must abide by several stipulations from the IRS, one of which is a general requirement to include a mission statement in incorporating documents. There are no specific guidelines for how to phrase and structure your statement, so you have flexibility; the statement simply must be present.
- Prioritize your giving. A mission statement guides your giving choices, allowing you to provide for causes and organizations that are most important to you. It will also attract grant-seekers who align with your philanthropic goals.
- Build relationships with peers. Your mission statement can help you connect with like-minded philanthropists who share a passion for your work.
- Prevent mission drift. A clear mission statement helps an organization stay focused and on track, continuously fueling the good work for which it was intended.
- Keep staff, board members, and volunteers aligned. The guiding principles outlined in the mission statement will encourage a unitive approach to everything you do.
How to Write a Mission Statement for a Foundation
Writing a mission statement for a Catholic foundation gives you the opportunity to express how your work will align with your values. It is a unique opportunity to seriously consider who you want to serve, how you want to serve, and why.
To craft a compelling statement, it is essential to reflect on these questions on your own and with board members:
- What role does faith play in your charitable giving? While it isn’t necessary to share this directly within your mission statement, it is important to keep sight of your ultimate “why” as you prepare to put your mission into words.
- What are your plans for the future of the foundation? How do you envision your legacy? Will your family take over the foundation for you in the future, or do you plan to spend down the foundation’s assets over the course of your life? This can impact the duration of the work you do.
- What are your personal philanthropic goals, and what is the work you want to accomplish? This would entail what kind of causes you want to support; for example, perhaps you want to offer grants to Catholic schools in underserved areas.
- How will you accomplish this? Determine the scope of your giving. Will this include grants and assets at the discretion of the foundation? Or simply grants? Will you make gifts to individuals or organizations, or both? Will your foundation directly carry out charitable work, or solely provide funding for other charitable organizations?
- Who will you support? Who are the people who will receive the support? This ties in closely with the work you want to accomplish, of course. For example, do you wish to exclusively support Catholic organizations, or would you prefer to broaden your reach to organizations that do not contradict Catholic morality and social justice teachings?
- What geographical area do you wish to serve? Perhaps you would like to leave this open-ended or you would like to narrow your focus. The decision depends on your goals.
When To Write a Mission Statement
Starting a new foundation is, of course, the perfect time to write a mission statement. You may also revise your existing statement if you are reevaluating your foundation’s current mission. This may happen if you discover an unmet need in your community that you are passionate about, or if you feel your work has been growing less relevant and should be redirected.
Characteristics of a Good Mission Statement
In addition to letting people know what you do and for whom, a good mission statement should be:
- Short (1 to 3 sentences)
- Simple, specific and clear (Someone should not need to re-read it or wonder what you do after reading it)
- Jargon-free (Use terms an average person will understand)
Foundation Mission Statement Examples
We compiled a few mission statements from foundations that are listed in the Catholic Funding Guide. These examples can spark ideas for your own mission statement.
The Catholic Foundation of Michigan inspires charitable giving and assists donors in providing for the long-term needs of the Catholic parishes, schools, ministries, and nonprofit organizations of southeast Michigan.
Why it’s effective: Right away, we know who the Catholic Community Foundation of Michigan serves: Catholic parishes, schools, ministries, and nonprofit organizations. We know where the Foundation will be serving: southeast Michigan. And we know how the work is being done: direct and facilitated charitable giving. This is short, clear, and specific.
The mission of the Raskob Foundation is to support domestic and international projects from institutions and organizations identified with the Catholic Church.
Why it’s effective: This mission statement has a broad focus, but is nonetheless simple and clear. It is also specific in that it outlines the types of institutions and organizations the foundation will support: those affiliated with the Catholic Church.
The Healey Education Foundation invests in PK-12 Catholic schools. We use our energy, resources and passion as a catalyst for change to ensure the future of Catholic schools.
Why it’s effective: Direct, clear, and specific, this mission statement leaves no question about what the Healey Education Foundation does and who they serve.
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