Non-profit How to Define the Purpose of a Nonprofit Organization

This article discusses how to define the primary purpose of your nonprofit organization and how to begin the process of starting your marketing plan. It is the second article in the "How to Create a Nonprofit Organization / Corporation" and "How to Incorporate a Business (For-Profit)" series.

What is the Purpose of Creating your Nonprofit Organization?

The first step towards the formation of your nonprofit organization is to define the primary purpose of your company – why are you interested in creating this organization? You may wish to promote a private interest (such as a local community club) or a deal with a public concern such as those promoting the arts, education, politics, religion or a charitable organization. You may have another purpose which includes non-commercial activities and which may be the reason for your choice of creating a nonprofit organization.

Some reasons why it is important to define your nonprofit organization early in the process is because it makes the later steps much easier to accomplish. This includes naming your company, determining whether the nonprofit organization qualifies for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and also helps you with focusing on who the right people are to target to serve on the board of directors and move the company forward. If the tax exempt status of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is critical for you, then it is important to review the requirements. You may also wish to consult with an experience business lawyer or financial advisor regarding requirements.

Create A Good Mission Statement

While it is not required for filing a nonprofit organization, you may wish to think about creating a mission statement or "elevator pitch" for your nonprofit organization at the same time you are defining its purpose. A mission statement should be a short, well crafted explanation of the purpose of your organization, who it services and why it is special and different than other nonprofit organizations. Your mission statement helps explain to people in an instant why your nonprofit organization should be important to them. You will eventually wish to use this mission statement in published marketing materials and collateral, requests for funding and public relations.

A corporate mission statement usually contains and defines three things:
  • 1. Target Market – who are and what type of people / organizations are you seeking to reach?
  • 2. Contribution – what product or service will you provide to your market?
  • 3. Distinction – what makes your product or service unique and stand out from all others available in the market that would lead your target market to select you?
Here are some examples of mission statements:
  • The Chicago Children's Charity is dedicated to the promotion and protection of the general health and well-being of children around the general vicinity of Chicago. Through our network of 17 locations, The CCC reaches into local communities and offers financial assistance and services to children and their families who have special needs.
  • 9/11 Never Again helps victims of the 9/11 tragedy cope with the loss of loved ones through volunteer counseling, therapy and public assistance. With over 50 professionally licensed therapists, 9/11 NA has helped over 1,100 victims around the New York Metropolitan area.
  • The NYC Legal Aid Society consisting of volunteer lawyers assisting lower income residents in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn handle all types of consumer fraud issues occurring in New York City.

The next step in the process of creating a nonprofit organization is "How to Choose a Good Company Name".
Business, Corporate & Nonprofit Law
Formation of a Business
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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Michael Wechsler
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