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The foundations of a business or organization are critical to its success. They include the mission, vision, core beliefs, guiding principles and values. Nearly all challenges businesses and organizations face can be traced back to problems with their foundations. Just like a cracked foundation in a house can lead to plumbing and electrical issues, paint cracks, and even roofing problems, problems with organizational foundations often lead to unhappy staff and customers, fundraising challenges, management issues and so much more. Having a clear set of foundations ensures businesses and organizations attract the right folks to their team and makes sure their programs, products and services really meet their intended goals and outcomes.

Mission, Vision, Core Beliefs, Guiding Principles and Values

Mission Statement

The mission statement describes the organization’s ultimate outcome. Specifically, it’s what the organization is working towards each and every day. A successful mission statement includes four (4) main parts: Ultimate Outcome +  For Who + Where + How. Getting a mission statement right can be a bit tricky, so let’s start by viewing a common mistake.

Our mission is to provide homeless services and help the homeless.

It sounds like a noble mission statement, but from a structural perspective it raises a lot of red flags. First, it appears the ultimate outcome is to provide homeless services. This means there always has to be people who are homeless to achieve their mission. That’s a hard no. An organization with integrity would want to end homelessness altogether.

Second, we can probably guess who their primary customer or client is supposed to be (i.e. people who are experiencing homelessness). But we don’t know where, which can be problematic. Do they mean in their own town, their own state, the United States of America, or all people who are experiencing homelessness on Earth? This organization could be quite large indeed! Essentially, this organization has no boundaries.

Equally as problematic, however, is that the mission statement doesn’t tell us how the mission will be achieved. Will they build and give away brand new mansions to all people who are experiencing homelessness? Will they provide vouchers? Will there be a shelter? Honestly, we just don’t know. Again, there are no clear boundaries or intentions. So, let’s help them! 

Our mission is to end homelessness (ultimate outcome) for individuals and families (for who) in Bluegrass, Kentucky (where) by providing a wide range of emergency and long-term housing services, coordinating employment services, providing mental health care, and advocating for systemic change (how). 

Remember, your mission is your ultimate outcome, for who, where and how. 

Vision Statement

A vision statement describes how the world will look once your business or organization has completed its mission. It helps promote a shared sense of the future you’re working towards.  In a very real sense it allows a reader to visualize and picture how the community will appear once your work has been done. 

Core Beliefs

The core beliefs of your business or organization outline your organization’s philosophies when it comes to the issue, opportunity or problem you are trying to address; your mission and vision; and/or your beliefs, feelings and attitudes towards your customers, clients, participants, staff, volunteers and team members. The core beliefs – along with the guiding principles and values – help to create the culture of your business or organization. 

Guiding Principles

Guiding principles articulate your organization’s guidelines and boundaries, particularly when it comes to programs, products and services, organizational culture, customer service, and how you might engage with potential community partners. 


Finally, your business or organization’s values help you set priorities and address opportunities or conflicts that might come your way. They help you determine when to say yes as well as when to say no. They capture what is most important to you. 

Build & Create

In this section, you can start building (or reviewing) your own business or organization. Here, we’ll focus on the mission, vision, core beliefs, guiding principles and values. You can also use the Integrity Check and Knowledge Review to make sure you’ve gotten down the basics. 

Foundations Worksheet

In this module, we’ll use the Foundations Worksheet to build and outline your business or organization’s complete foundations. 

Open Foundations Worksheet

Integrity Check

Next: Governance & Leadership

NOTE: If you’re developing a program or department within an existing business or organization, it can still be helpful to complete this process. However, you’ll want to make sure to demonstrate how the foundations you create for your program or department also align with the parent business or organization’s foundations as well.