Mission Statements and Strategic Planning

Mission Statement

A clear mission statement is the foundation of well-operated museum or historic site. This document serves as the guiding force behind any organizational action. At its core, however, the document should provide board members, employees, and guests with answers to these central questions:

  • Purpose: What are the goals of your institution? What call to action or public need are you responding to?
  • Means: How will your institution achieve these goals?
  • Intended Value: What do you want the public to get out of interactions with your institution?

Each of these questions serves as a guidepost. If periodically reviewed, the mission statement can help you determine the degree to which any programs, initiatives or actions align with the purpose of the museum. It is ultimately the duty of the board and institutional director to write and update the mission statement as needed. However, inclusion of staff or volunteer input can be help get the organization as a whole on the same page.

Whether you are writing a new mission statement or revising your current one, the following resources will help you and your organization develop a mission statement that expresses your intent!

Sources for writing your mission statement:

Examples/Templates for Mission Statements:


Strategic Planning

After writing a mission statement that answers what you intend to do, the next step is to develop a strategic plan that enumerates precisely how you intend to do it!

Like the mission statement, a strategic plan is not a static piece of prose. It is a living document, one that must be reviewed, and if necessary updated, every few years to reflect the relationship of your organization to its internal and external environment. The strategic plan and the mission statement are closely tied to one another; the goal of a strategic plan is to lay out your organization’s timeline to sustainably enact its mission statement. Typically spanning three to five years, the strategic plan explains the following:

  • The critical issues facing your organization, both internal and external (including laws, budgets, funding mandates, and the expectation of the organization’s stakeholders)
  • The strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity for the museum
  • The resources already available to the museum
  • A clear set of goals and strategies in response to these issues
  • The resources still necessary to achieve these goals
  • An implementation plan for these goals, including the means of implementation
  • A vision statement for the future of the museum (This can also include the input of the community)
  • A strategy for periodic evaluation and reassessment of the organization

The strategic plan should include input from all levels of your organization – from the board members, the executive director, and the staff. If your organization is large, designate a committee to write the formal document. Ultimately, it is the duty of the director to implement the plan, given the nature of this position as a manager for the museum and intermediary between the staff and the board of directors.

Sources for core principles of a strategic plan:

Examples of a strategic plan:

  • The Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library’s strategic plan demonstrates how small museums can use planning to direct efforts and resources efficiently.
  • The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula’s strategic plan is an example of a strategic plan with measurable goals and action steps.
  • Here is a link to the Maine Archives and Museum’s five-year strategic plan.
  • Rebecca Macfarlane has written a strategic plan template.