Sunset, Strait of Georgia

There’s no sense telling your staff and public that you will be the top heritage attraction in the nation if you can’t craft a strategic plan (and budget) that will get you there.

In my previous article, I outlined what I hope will be a fairly simple way to craft a relevant, realistic mission statement. The problem with relevant and realistic mission statements, though, is that boards of directors sometimes look at them and find them a little too pedestrian, and a tad uninspiring.

Enter the vision statement: the mission statement’s lofty and aspirational counterpart.

A vision statement is short sentence or two that describes your world in an imagined perfect future—one in which your mission has been executed flawlessly. It is a high-minded, ambitious declaration that acts as a beacon to inspire staff and volunteers, and guide for future board members.

Your vision statement goes beyond describing what you do, where you do it, and for whom. This is your opportunity to describe how well you will do it, and what defines excellence for you. What will set you apart from all others in your field?

Sample Vision Statements

Mission: “The Jameson Society brings the history of the Appalachians to life for the people of the Maple Creek area, through research and public education.”

Vision: “We envision the Maple Creek community as one in which citizens know and celebrate their history, understand its context, take pride in its accomplishments, learn from its trials, and share it passionately with their children.”

Mission: “The Duck Lake Nature Society conserves the wetlands of southeastern Ontario by engaging our communities in education and action.”

Vision: “The Duck Lake Society envisions the wetlands of southeastern Ontario as healthy, diverse, self-sustaining ecosystems cherished by their communities. We will be a nationally-respected model for wetland conservation through active community engagement.”

A Filter for Future Projects

Like a good mission statement, an effective vision statement acts as a filter to help you evaluate future proposals. With each new idea, you can not only ask, “Is this in our mission?” but also, “Does this proposal get us closer to our vision?” As such, it needs to be fairly specific. Ask yourselves, “What would the world look like if our mission were no longer needed?” Describe exactly what those changes would be: perhaps your audiences will be knowledgeable and committed; perhaps your endangered species or habitats will be protected; perhaps your communities will be engaged and active. Perhaps you will be regional experts, or even international leaders.

And while a vision statement is lofty and aspirational, it should still remain grounded in genuine possibility. Your vision should be achievable. There’s no sense in telling your staff and public that you will be the top heritage attraction in the nation or global leaders in prairie conservation if you can’t craft a strategic plan (and budget) that will get you there. Be vigilant against pie-in-the-sky board members, in particular. You’re going to need to put your money (and expertise and sweat and passion) where your mouth is. Promise only what you can reasonably hope to achieve in the next ten to twenty years.

And then all you need to do is buckle down, gather your energies, and spend the next twenty years making that vision reality.

“A vision is a detailed history of the future.” – Nina Simon

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