Four ways a mission statement can help you give with greater impact
What inspires you to give? How do you want to make a difference in the world? Answering questions like these is the first step toward writing a charitable mission statement. Doing so can be a powerful way to make your giving more meaningful—both for your personal fulfillment and for the people and communities you're working to support.
A charitable mission statement is typically one to three sentences that puts the purpose of your giving into words. Your values, life experiences, interests, and close relationships can all play a role in helping you decide what your mission is. “A charitable mission statement is designed to crystallize what is most important to you in your giving,” says Elaine Martyn, vice president and managing director of the Private Donor Group at Fidelity Charitable. “It's one of the best and easiest ways to make giving more fun, more focused, and more effective.” Here are four reasons why creating a charitable mission statement is important.
We all have many things that we care about, and there are many charities that we could potentially support. But by identifying what you care about most, you are better able to decide where to focus your time and financial support. “Just like any other aspect of your life, prioritizing helps you be more successful,” Martyn says. Rather than scattering resources across many areas, which dilutes the impact of your support, you can achieve something meaningful.
Putting your mission into words can strengthen your connection to it, says Martyn. “It's much more fun to give when you know you are actually doing something purposeful with your giving.” Having a purpose is motivating and inspires you to take concrete steps to achieve your vision. For example, if your top priority is to help the homeless, perhaps you'll contact the local homeless shelter to learn more about what they need most or seek to become more informed about what is the most effective way to help homeless people.
With so many year-end appeals, mailed solicitations, and requests from friends and colleagues, there's always another worthy cause to give to. Your mission statement can help you filter these requests through the lens of what's really important to you. Martyn recommends following an 80/20 rule for requests from friends, families, or other situations that just come up. “You can set aside some funds to support the things that are important to others you care about or to respond to a situation that really moves you,” she says. “But reserve the bulk of your giving for the things that really matter to you.”
With your mission statement as your guide, it becomes possible to set actionable goals for what you would like your giving to accomplish over the next five years, ten years, and beyond. You'll be able to zero in on not only the organizations you truly want to support, but also how you might want to support them. For example, if your mission is to advance the arts, instead of sending general support to your university, you might support the studio arts program or a project that brings visiting artists to campus to meet with students and create new work.
Over time, you'll start to see your vision being realized. And giving is always more rewarding when you know your contributions are producing real results, both for the organizations you care about and the problem or issue you want your giving to help solve.
“Our primary interest in giving is to ensure that we are taking care of the veterans who have served our country.”
“I want to honor my profession and my daughters by supporting programs that encourage women and girls to find success in technical and scientific fields.”
Ultimately, a charitable mission statement is intended to help you make the most of your giving. It's a reflection of your values that can anchor your efforts and keep you on track toward your goals. “The important thing is to just get something down in writing,” Martyn says. “You can always evolve it over time. But most people are amazed at the way just going through this simple exercise really transforms how they feel about their giving for the better.”
Use our worksheet to develop your charitable mission statement.