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Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 10.05.44 AM.png.003Here’s a quick test for every nonprofit leader, development director, or staff member: Can you recall your organization’s vision statement? If not, that’s a telling sign that something is wrong.

Done right, a vision can take your organization where it’s never been before. Done wrong, it’s just background noise with zero impact on your nonprofit’s direction and performance.

3 Things an Effective Nonprofit Vision Statement is NOT

If your organization’s vision lacks power, maybe your team suffers from one (or more) of these widespread misconceptions about vision.

1. Vision Is NOT about Being Number One

Wanting to be “the best” is not a very compelling vision. Generalities like “We want our college to be the best,” “We want our hospital to be number one in the Midwest,” or “We want our organization to help alleviate poverty” are all wonderful goals. But none of them inspires this response: “Yes, I want to be a part of that!” A vision should be about a destination you’re trying to reach that will have an impact on people’s lives.

2. Vision Is NOT about Rankings

Rankings can hold any nonprofit hostage, but especially higher education and healthcare institutions. Being tier one, tier two, tier three, top 50, or top 20 is helpful for marketing or recruiting. But a ranking is not a vision for a donor; it says nothing about how a life has been changed or how someone was impacted.

If you’re too focused on yourself, or your nonprofit’s ranking, you’re going to fundamentally miss what will connect a donor to your organization.

3. Vision Is NOT a Dollar Goal

Fundraising goals and other metrics may be interesting to fundraisers, but a dollar goal is not going to inspire a donor. This is especially true as you move down the donor pyramid. The more you emphasize a dollar goal, the more insignificant your donors will feel at the mid-level and lower levels. After all, their gifts are just a drop in the bucket of your tremendous goal. Instead of fundraising goals, focus on the real impact of the organization. Connect your donor to achieving something that is fundamentally inspiring.

How to Overcome Those Misconceptions and Create a Compelling Vision

Now that you know what a vision is not, take a moment to download some important details about what it is. Find out how you can tap this powerful tool to send your organization higher. Check our whitepaper, “I Have a Dream—The Importance of Vision” and see what vision can do for you.

Does your organization’s current vision statement fall prey to any of the three misconceptions listed above?