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How Your Purpose, Vision, and Mission Can Guide Better Brand Storytelling

Your social impact organization’s unique story starts by defining its purpose, vision, and mission. Learn how to best incorporate each into your messaging.

Eric Ressler
January 13, 2021
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Good storytelling is crucial for every social impact brand. But not just any story — your brand’s story. Something compelling and honest about your nonprofit that influences supporters, donors, and funders alike to listen up, engage, and act.

There are countless ways to tell your story through your digital media platform. From dramatic documentaries to snappy TikTok videos, thought leadership essays to email blasts, you have endless options.

No matter how you go about telling your brand's story, there are three interrelated aspects of your organization to focus on in your communications and messaging: purpose, vision, and mission. Without using these three principles to guide your messaging, you are rudderless at best and ineffective at worst.

Defining and disseminating your organization’s purpose, vision, and mission will do more than keep you focused on the work you do every day. It will encourage engagement and deep connection with those on whom you rely to get the work across the finish line.

Differences Between Purpose, Vision, and Mission

By setting out to define your brand’s purpose, vision, and mission, you’re not only giving your organization direction and clarity, but you’re also carving out your niche in the ecosystem. Supported by your theory of change, they're how you make a statement about who your organization is, why you exist, what you’re doing to achieve it, and how. These elements are critical in differentiating your nonprofit. Here’s how they differ from each other:

  • Purpose. Your purpose is the reason your organization exists — not what you do or how you do it, but why. Often, it’s the origin story behind why your organization came to be. It may be connected to your founder’s personal story — how they turned their passion into something tangible. Ultimately, it answers the question, “What are you fighting for?” And it’s the cornerstone for everything your organization does.

  • Vision. Your vision is the ultimate pie-in-the-sky dream. It’s the emotional hook for the long-term goals of your nonprofit. Less strategic in nature, your vision should be big, bold, and aspirational. Many organizations never see their vision come to fruition, and that's OK. It doesn’t mean they aren’t successful; in fact, if they were to achieve their vision they would likely no longer need to exist.

  • Mission. Your mission is the shorter-term strategic and measurable goal that your organization is working to accomplish. When devising your mission, you should be able to set milestones that will allow you to reach the completion of that mission. Over time you can set several missions on the pathway to accomplishing your vision. But know that you can accomplish one mission (or several) and still never reach your vision — and that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Again, some visions are never fully realized, but the work achieved through your various missions is still very impactful.

A Framework for Defining Your Organization's Purpose, Mission, and Vision

A finely tuned purpose, vision, and mission are crucial for your organization. Each helps garner support from followers, donors, and funders alike. Not to mention, they guide everything you do. Craft yours with this simple worksheet.

Building Support for Your Brand’s Purpose, Mission, and Vision

Once you go through the exercise of crafting your purpose, vision, and mission, you’ll understand how each one holds weight. Defining and communicating them will make it easier for your audience to understand you, too.

Your purpose, vision, and mission should connect with people. But there is deeper reasoning that draws people to connect. It comes down to another set of three: logic, emotion, and strategy. Here’s what we mean:

  • Logic. For people to get behind your organization, there has to be logical involvement. This is the intellectual component that feeds people’s need to know the realistic avenue through which your work will get done. It doesn’t help to have a purpose, vision, or mission that is not grounded in reality. Logic is a building block for getting people invested in your success. It's the head. Next is the heart.

  • Emotion. It’s no secret that people form bonds over emotional experiences. And it's at the heart of your story. So showing genuine emotion in your messaging connects people with your cause on a deeper level. The story behind your brand’s purpose is likely saturated in emotion, and it’s important to be vulnerable in sharing it.

  • Strategy. Your mission tells stakeholders that you have a tangible, real-world strategy for getting something done. Your theory of change helps with this, too. Your strategy allows them to feel confident that you will actually effect change and make progress toward your goal. Often, your strategy can differentiate you from the pack since there is more than one way to get something done. It’s how you get things done.

If purpose, vision, and mission are the fabric of your brand, then logic, emotion, and strategy are the colors and texture of that fabric.

How Purpose, Vision, and Mission Make Messaging and Outreach Impactful

Smart social impact leaders know a fully developed plan is key to garnering support. That’s why it’s important to support your purpose, vision, and mission with logic, emotion, and strategy. If you don’t, your audience might become skeptical of your organization and move on to one they feel is more trustworthy.

Trust drives all successful relationships. For your supporters, donors, and funders, a relationship with your organization is just that: a relationship. It's a connection. With a mission, people can enter into a long-term relationship because they understand the important details, they trust you. And believe in you. Even if your supporters don’t know what the outcome might be, they can feel confident putting their time, energy, and money in your hands to further the cause.

Your mission is key in providing supporters with new and exciting opportunities to make a difference. Ideally, the more they get involved, they will become brand ambassadors. They can explain to others what you do and your method for effecting change in your chosen area of focus. For donors and funders, your mission offers them a tangible way to measure your impact. It provides your organization with a clear framework for analyzing key performance metrics — details that most funders look for.

Purpose, vision, and mission are crucial aspects of your brand — not just your brand's story, but behind everything you do. It's who you are at your core. You work hard to further your cause. Now, this is when the spotlight turns back on you to boldly define and proudly share who you are.

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