How Developing a Mission Statement and Set of Guiding Principles Can Foster Team Unity


In a previous blog, I offered some advice on how to create a mission statement that compels supporters to take action.

This is key, as understanding your nonprofit’s goals, objectives, and values determines whether someone decides to join your efforts.

But I wanted to take this opportunity to shift gears a bit. Because although it’s crucial that those outside of your organization learn how you plan to change the world, it’s even more important that those inside of your organization know it too.

Think about it…

Your team is your greatest asset. Each individual serves a unique purpose in your organization. The people who are either employees or volunteers help in spreading your message, making it possible for your nonprofit to grow and thrive!

However, if everyone isn’t on the same page with regard to…

…it creates a disconnect. And this disconnect can affect everything—from the way in which your team interacts with potential donors to the sense of camaraderie (or lack thereof) in your organization.

Having a mission statement and set of guiding principles is a must for any organization, especially nonprofits. When you understand the role of each, you begin to see how clarifying and internalizing them can foster team unity, strengthening your nonprofit so it can do more good in the world.

The Role of a Mission Statement and Set of Guiding Principles in Your Organization

A mission statement and a set of guiding principles each play a valuable role in your organization. The two are intertwined, as they both help with bringing others into your story.  

And your story is everything.

With your mission statement, you’re able to provide current and future team members with a point of focus for your story. You’re able to explain the impact your organization is trying to make, the stakes involved, and the way in which you’re serving those in need.

With your guiding principles, you’re able to give current and future team members the directions they need to move your story forward. You’re able to invite them in, showing how they can embrace the organization’s values and contribute to something greater than themselves.

Ultimately, these parts of your internal messaging work to educate, motivate, inspire, and unify those within your organization.

Signs That You (As a Leader) Need to Improve Your Internal Messaging

As the leader of your nonprofit, you have a responsibility to ensure that those who join your team have a firm grasp of your mission statement and guiding principles.

Think of yourself as a storyteller. You need to be sure that everyone involved understands what your story is about, what actions they should take, and what words they should say.

If you’re not sure as to whether you’ve made your internal messaging clear enough or interesting enough, here are a few signs that you may need to make some improvements (or start from scratch)…

1) Your team members can’t remember your mission statement.

When your team members are asked what your nonprofit actually does, do they struggle to remember your mission statement? More importantly, do they fail to recite it with feeling—in a way that proves to others they not only know exactly what your organization does but also believe in your organization’s mission?

If so, then it’s back to the drawing board, as a mission statement should be powerful, memorable, and compelling, summarizing your nonprofit’s story in a brief paragraph. 

2) Your team members don’t know what they should be doing.

Is there confusion among your team members regarding what they should be doing? Do they wonder how they’re meant to move your nonprofit’s story forward?

If so, you likely need to refine the guiding principles your team is meant to follow. In doing so, you can explain what critical actions your team members should be taking every day to help fulfill your nonprofit’s mission.

3) Your team members aren’t passionate about the organization or their individual roles.

Do your team members display a lack of passion in their work? Do they act like they’re just cogs in the machine?

If so, you should revise your internal messaging so the story (and each person’s role in it) is made clear. When people feel important—like an integral part of a compelling story—they become motivated, passionate, and driven.  

The Benefits of Clarifying a Mission Statement and Set of Guiding Principles

Taking the time to clarify a mission statement and set of guiding principles only serves to improve an organization from the inside out.

By revisiting your internal messaging to ensure everything is clear, concise, and story driven, you can look forward to a number of benefits…

Better Alignment

Team of volunteers in a huddle.

Your internal messaging has a huge impact on alignment within your organization. And when everyone is on the same page—unified around your mission—it deepens the connection your team members have with each other and the nonprofit they serve.

Greater Engagement

Done right, your internal messaging can increase engagement among your team.

As I mentioned, it’s important for people to feel like they’re part of a compelling story. When they do, they become more invested in seeing where the story will go.

Increased Productivity

Having a mission statement and set of guiding principles lays out the why and the how for your team. It ensures that everyone knows what direction the story is headed and encourages them to work more effectively so your nonprofit’s mission can be fulfilled.

Easier Recruitment

Your mission statement and guiding principles affect not only current team members but also future team members.

When your story is shared, the stakes are made clear, and everyone’s role is defined, it becomes much easier to recruit passionate, talented people—people who can see just how important your story is. 

The Takeaway

Make no mistake—a mission statement is vital for encouraging others to support your organization’s efforts. However, that statement, combined with your nonprofit’s guiding principles, also serves another important purpose: unifying your team.

If you want to see real growth in your organization, you need to be certain that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to your story.

When they are, they become more…

…and that gives you a solid foundation on which your nonprofit can work to change the world!


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Filed Under: Marketing by Industry

About Selah Hirsch

For more than 15 years, Selah Hirsch has worked with organizations committed to making our world a better place. She has been busy helping them get their message to connect to the hearts of their audience, refreshing their brand, and crafting their exceptional story. The result? An increase in their community engagement, donor development, and a presence that strengthens their reputation.

Selah is the founder of Pipelime, a branding agency that equips leaders to more confidently express their brand message.

She lives in Norman, OK, with her husband Michael and their three adorable, zany kids.