Vision Statements: what are they and why genealogical societies need them


Jack Welch, Chairman of General Electric said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Vision Statements v. Mission Statements

Mission statements and vision statements do different jobs. A mission statement is a short statement of the purpose of an organization. It guides the actions, gives the overall goal and directs decision making. Vision statements also define an organization’s purpose, but they focus on the goals and aspirations of the organization. Both mission and vision statements are designed to be educational and inspiring. However, a mission statement changes to reflect current thinking, but the vision may stay the same throughout the life of the organization. Vision statements explain to others what your organization wants to be.

What is a Vision Statement?

A Vision Statement:

  • Defines the desired future state of what an organization wants to achieve over time (goal)
  • Provides guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years (future)
  • Draws people to a common work (unites)
  • Inspires others to action (motivates)
  • Written succinctly in an inspirational manner that makes it easy for all to remember and repeat
  • Provides a basis for developing other aspects of strategies and action plans (direction)

Leaders may change, but a clearly established Vision encourages people to focus on what’s important and better understand organization-wide change and alignment of resources.

How to Create a Vision Statement

Step 1: Find the “Human Value” in Your Work

First, identify your organization’s mission. Next, find the “human value” in that mission. For example, how does your organization improve people’s lives? How does what you do make the world a better place? Keep in mind that human values are the foundation of ethics and guidelines used in daily life.

Step 2: Refine Into Values

Then determine what you and other members value the most about how your organization will achieve this mission. Condense these into values your organization has (or should have). If you have a hard time identifying your organization’s values, talk to your members. What values do they think the organization stands for? Some attributes may include: honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, discipline, fairness.

Step 3: Combine Your Mission and Values

Combine your mission and values and polish words until you have an inspiring statement that will energize people — inside and outside your organization. It should be broad and timeless. It should tell others why the people in your organization do what they do.

Key Points

Mission and vision statements are succinct, inspirational statements that clearly communicate the direction and values of an organization. These statements can powerfully explain your intentions and motivate your organization to realize a motivating vision of the future. Not having a clearly defined Vision and Mission limits occasions for the organization’s success and is a disservice to members and volunteers. If an organization wants engaged and productive members, it should make sure members and volunteers know how their work contributes to accomplishing the Mission and ultimately how it contributes to the Vision of the organization.

The lack of or poorly written Vision and Mission statements are lost opportunities for:

  • Attracting/engaging/retaining talent
  • Building organizational culture
  • Increasing productivity

Examples of Vision Statements

Examples of effective Vision statements include:

Alzheimer’s Association: “Our Vision is a world without Alzheimer’s disease.”

Microsoft: “Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.”


It’s never too late for an organization to define its Vision and Mission. Some even reinvent themselves through the strategic planning process, beginning with these two core elements. Regardless of how an organization creates an effective Vision and Mission statement, it is important that they be entrenched into the culture through clear and consistent communications from the highest levels of an organization. Developing effective vision and mission statements are two of the most important tasks your organization will ever do because almost everything else you do will be affected by these statements.

Cherie Bush
FGS Director

Leave a Comment