With the start of the New Year sometimes it’s best to start from the beginning when looking at an organization. And it all starts with your organizations vision and mission. After all, if an organization doesn’t have either, there is no reason for its existence.

Even though vision and mission statements go hand in hand, they are two very different pieces of content. Both are crucial to an organization and should be crafted before anything else. But, truth be told, the difference between the two can be a little confusing.

To start, think about what the world or your community would look like once your mission is achieved. This is the basic foundation for what your vision statement should be. Your mission statement is your rallying cry – it drives your entire organization from Board members and employees, all the way to your volunteers. Your vision statement is the end of the rainbow. It grounds your audience and gives them more information about why the work you’re doing is important.

Organizations create mission and vision statements to convey the direction in which they’re going. Both statements help communicate the intentions an organization has and its goals for the future. But each statement is created for a separate reason and each holds a different meaning.

Vision Statements

A vision statement outlines the organization’s key values and lays out where the organization intends to go over the long term. The statement is designed to provide inspiration and focus, as well as giving the public a clear sense of what the organization believes in. A vision statement can include things that are not true now but that the organization is striving to make true. For example, a vision statement may say that an organization has a goal eliminating world hunger, even if it is not so now.

Mission Statements

A mission statement describes an organization’s overall purpose, including defining its key measures of success. A mission statement’s target audience is primarily internal: the organization’s employees, leadership, Board members, even its volunteers. When organizations create mission statements, they take into account the services they offer, as well as the organization’s image, values and priorities. The focus is on how the organization should be operating, and it serves as a very general blueprint

Differences Between the Two

One key difference with mission and vision statements is the time element. A mission statement talks primarily about what the organization is currently doing. It focuses on the present state of the organization.

A vision statement, on the other hand, is a projection of where the organization or situation wants to be in the future. These statements are designed to work together. If an organization follows its mission statement, then the vision statement will be what the organization has to look forward to in the future. Vision statements are generally created before mission statements, because a vision statement will direct the company on how it must operate today to get to where it wants to be.

Effective mission statements should include the values and purpose of the organization, its primary stakeholders and its responsibilities to these stakeholders. They are often created by determining what the company does today, who it does it for and how it does it. Effective vision statements should paint a vivid picture, describe a bright future and offer realistic ambitions. When vision statements are created, companies look at what they want in the future, when they want it and how to accomplish it.