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How to Write a Values Statement that Really Means Something

Photo: Stepping stones, Bow Creek © Copyright Derek Harper -

Vision. Mission.Values. We know we need all three of these guiding statements, but the values piece often gets short shrift. A slight change in thinking can help you produce a values statement that will bring your entire team into alignment, improve your ability to focus your work, and provide an important entry point for donors.

Traditionally, a values statement summarizes the “principles” by which we operate. Diversity. Equality. Integrity. And so on.

We’ve seen board members actually yawn while putting together a traditional values statement. Of course we’re going to operate with integrity, they say. Furthermore, there’s nothing about a traditional list of principles that differentiates your organization for donors.

There is a better way. And, it’s simple. Don’t ask “what are our values?” or “what are the principles that drive our work?”

Ask instead: WHAT DO WE BELIEVE?

This can fall into a few categories:

Things we believe about how the world should be:

We believe all children have the right to a high quality education.

We believe in standing up for the most vulnerable in our community.

Things we believe about how to create solutions:

We believe public education can be improved by training and retaining high quality teachers.

We believe that meeting families’ basic needs – food, shelter, healthcare – is the first step out of poverty.

Things we believe about how our services should be delivered:

We believe that aspiring educators should be empowered and encouraged.

We believe in the dignity of each family and their right to receive services with respect.

Developing a list of values with your team can be an extremely rich exercise. Try doing it with staff and board in the room.

This is where your shared ideals can bring the group together. It can raise important questions that need to be answered and narrow your focus, if needed.

Don’t forget to weave your values into your website copy and other communications outlets so that potential donors can see quickly and easily how your values align with theirs. 


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