From The Art Of Community by O'Reilly (http://www.artofcommunityonline.org) by Jono Bacon
Building a Mission Statement
A mission statement holds a lot of value for any kind of collaborative project, be it a commercial product or a volunteer community. These statements emphasize the promise, opportunity, and definition of what your community is seeking to achieve. Their purpose is to articulate ambition with a detailed, succinct, and elegant approach. Mission statements help get everyone in your community on the same page.
Mission statements are intended to be consistent and should rarely change, even if the tasks that achieve that mission change regularly. When building your mission statement, always have its longevity in mind. Remember, your mission statement is your slam-dunking, audacious goal. For many communities these missions can take decades or even longer to achieve. Their purpose is to not only describe the finish line, but to help the community stay on track.
Now sit down and write your mission statement. Take the “MISSION” sentence that you wrote down earlier, break it apart, and illustrate it using descriptive, evocative, and stimulating words. Your mission should define the purpose of your aims, the bigger picture of where they fit in, and the uniqueness of your approach. You should expand on your “MISSION” while also using your “OPPORTUNITIES,” “SKILLS,” and “AREAS OF COLLABORATION” for inspiration.
Although there are no fixed guidelines for the size of a mission statement, keep it detailed yet concise. If you exceed 300 words, you may be babbling a little too much. This, my friends, is a babble-free zone.
When you have completed the statement, you should run it through three rigorous tests:
Put yourself in the position of a potential community member. If you had no knowledge of the community or its goals, would the mission statement explain it all within a minute? With every sentence, you risk the reader getting bored and wandering off for a love affair with his PlayStation. If your mission doesn’t deliver your aims quickly, efficiently, and compactly, go and improve it.
Get someone else to read it. Ask her to tell you what she thinks and how she perceives the aims of your community. Typically this person may be a friend, but friends often skirt around criticism. Make sure your reader is encouraged to criticize where needed, and tell her you won’t get in a huff if she says something sucks. If she says something is unclear, fix it.
Is this mission statement going to inspire you and your members through the toughest times of the community? In Organizational Vision, Values and Mission (Crisp Learning), Cynthia D. Scott et al. describe this perfectly: “A mission evokes a personal response. Work on it until it gets to be so clear that reminding yourself of it will keep you, on a really bad day, from walking out and quitting.” Is your mission going to stop you from quitting when the world has climbed onto your shoulders? One day this is going to happen, and you need to be able to look at your mission statement and have “a moment.”