A frequent question we hear from Foundation Source clients when they first establish their foundation is whether they should create a mission statement. Our answer: yes, but not necessarily right away.
Does a foundation have to have a mission statement? The IRS requires that private foundations have a statement specifying the organization’s charitable intent in its incorporating documents. To fulfill this mandate, many foundations adopt the broad statutory language that defines all nonprofits (e.g., “for religious, scientific, literary, educational or other charitable purposes.”) Beyond this, there is no legal requirement to create a mission statement.
Yet conventional philanthropic wisdom suggests that creating a mission is a critical first step in launching one’s foundation. Most advisors consider this the best way to get foundation members marching in the same direction. While creating a mission certainly makes good sense for those who know exactly what they want to accomplish from the outset, it is not necessarily the best route for everyone.