Kevin P. Kearns
University of Pittsburgh
A brief written statement of an organization's purpose, goals, operating philosophy, and aspirations—hence, the mission statement provides a guide for decisionmaking and planning within the organization and also can be used as a contract of accountability for citizens, clients, and other external constituencies.
An effective mission statement should serve three essential purposes. First, it should provide constituencies inside and outside the organization with a commonly understood interpretation of the organization's legal mandate.
The mandate and the mission statement, while related, are not the same (Bryson 1991, pp. 93-95). The organization's mandate specifies the obligations to which it is legally bound and often is expressed in the form of a charter, articles of incorporation, bylaws, authorizing legislation, statutes, ordinances, or administrative regulations. Often, the mandate will outline in excruciating detail nearly all facets of the organization's functions, its structure, its policymaking procedures, and the sources of its revenue. For example, the Borough Code for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—a typical mandate—is a document of several hundred pages covering everything from the allowable sources of tax revenue to procedures for awarding public contracts.