Should charities have a vision statement?


I’ve always thought it’s important for charities to clearly articulate their vision for the future.

For me, it can help galvanise people around your cause, both internally and externally, and also act as a kind of North Star when you are making strategic decisions.

Having said that, I can understand why some people might be sceptical.

We’ve all seen vision statements, across all sectors, that have the distinct feeling of phoning it in. While others just sit on a website without becoming an important part of an organisation’s communications.

And there is something stultifying and uninspiring about the terminology of “vision, mission and values”.

But I thought it would be interesting to see how many of the top 20 fundraising charities, according to Charity Financials, have a vision statement.

I looked on their websites, and found that the vast majority, 17 out of 20, have an obvious vision statement. For me, that suggests that they do have a useful purpose.

Admittedly, you could argue that big charities are more likely to have dedicated brand teams, and charities with brand teams tend to think having a vision statement is important.

But my guess is that it’s the other way around: that charities with a clear vision of the future are more likely to become successful charities in the first place.

Looking at the vision statements of these 20 charities, all of which are able to raise over £70m a year, another thing stands out. Of the 17 charities with a vision statement, 15 have one that sets out how they want the world to be rather than how they want to develop as an organisation.

I think that’s important to remember and, again, not a coincidence. After all, Martin Luther King didn’t inspire a generation with a dream about creating a world-class civil right organisation.

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