A clear mission statement is the foundation of a well-operated museum or historic site. This document serves as the guiding force behind any organizational action. At its core, 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. Including staff or volunteer input can help get the whole organization 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:
- Topnonprofits.com posted an infographic that concisely compares mission and vision statements.
- The Balance has a short, bulleted list detailing the ways to make your mission statement memorable and what to avoid.
Examples/templates for mission statements:
- Nonprofit Hub has a complete step-by-step guide to crafting a mission statement.
- Also, be open to reading mission statements from other organizations that inspire you. They may provide some approaches for crafting your own mission statement. As a starting place, Top Nonprofits also has a list of 50 examples of mission statements.
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 environments. 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:
- The AASLH published this article on DIY strategic planning for small museums.
- This article published by the American Association for State and Local History outlines the basic principles of strategic planning for small museums.
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.