What!! Eight words? How can a clear mission statement only be 8 words long?

When we begin a new client relationship, we almost always ask for them to tell us their mission.

We ask this question all the time working with clients.

Often, someone on the staff will pull out his phone, navigate to the home page where the mission statement can be found. The staffer will then recite the mission statement – albeit a bit red in the face that it had to be read from the website.

Infrequently, an astute employee will have it memorized and can recite it like an 8th grader recites the Gettysburg address – word perfect – if perhaps lacking some of President Lincoln’s passion.

Unfortunately, many mission statements are almost as long as our 16th president’s most famous speech, however, not as clear or moving.

Why all this talk about your mission statement?

We’d all agree a mission statement is of great importance. It provides the purpose for our ministry and should give parameters on what we’re about and what we’re not about. And, most would agree that a clear mission statement distinguishes us from other good ministries, with different purposes.

In fact, in their outstanding annual report on high net worth donors, the Indiana School of Philanthropy cites “the mission of the organization” as one of the highest motivators for major gifts.

This singular item of having a motivating mission statement tops many other factors including, the organization’s leadership, tax advantages, and specific funding opportunities.

We’ve seen some great mission statements. We’ve also seen those that suffer from word-salad.

In fact, in their outstanding annual report on high net worth donors, the Indiana School of Philanthropy cites “the mission of the organization” as one of the highest motivators for major gifts.

Word-Salad Statements


That’s what we call a mix of ideas and ideals, target groups, and methods. A word-salad statement always leaves the reader rather confused about the core purpose of the organization.

Recently I came across an interesting article and exercise by the Mulago Foundation. It’s called the 8-word mission statement. The Mulago Foundation seeks to make grants to organizations that serve people in extreme poverty. If an organization’s mission statement isn’t clear, Mulago may reject a proposal immediately. If the organization is of interest, they may help the organization refine its purpose.

The Recipe for a Clear Mission Statement?

A verb. A target. An outcome.

The verb describes the action that is applied to the subject. Examples might include:

  • Save
  • Change
  • Disciple
  • Improve
  • Educate

The target is the object of your organization. This is normally a people group:

  • Children
  • Adults
  • French-speaking Africans
  • Trafficked women
  • Abused
  • Homeless

An outcome is the result of the organization’s work such as:

  • Restored
  • Reformed
  • Employed
  • Equipped

While there is nothing magical about 8 words making a clear mission statement, the process forces us to sharpen our message. The process forces us to refine, refine, refine until we have great clarity on our purpose.

The process not only gives you great clarity but also provides clarity to those you’re asking to partner in your ministry.

Make a Statement you want to Read


There’s a certain café I like to go to when traveling to a particular town. It has an old-style feeling and the proceeds support a ministry that does good work. The mission statement is painted on the wall. The statement takes up nearly 6 vertical feet of wall and is no less than 86 words in length.

I read it every time I visit.

So, when you read your mission statement to someone, does it inspire and motivate? Is it clear and compelling? Does it take further explanation or stand-alone? What are the action verbs that describe your work? Who do you serve? And what’s the outcome your ministry provides?

We got our mission statement down to 6 words. At Elevation Growth Partners, we’re 

Equipping Leaders to Change the World.

Learn more about Elevation Growth Partners