Welcome to our new website

All the information you need, all in one place. We’re still working on some exciting features, so you won’t be able to login or pay online just yet. But don’t worry! All of our amazing content is open and you can make payments as you usually would. Browse our help and guidance

Setting the direction of your organisation

This page is free to all

Use this page to learn about how to set the direction of your organisation.

Why setting your direction is important

Setting the direction of your organisation involves developing a clear and shared understanding of your purpose and direction.

This can:

  • give your organisation a long-term view
  • unite the organisation around a common sense of purpose and identity
  • communicate what your organisation is about clearly to people inside and outside of it
  • provide a clear and agreed direction from which a strategy can be developed.

Ways to describe your purpose and direction

Organisations usually have some kind of broad statement (or series of statements) that describe their purpose and direction.

A popular way to do this is to use Vision and Mission statements.

  • Your Vision is a powerful description of the future; it’s about how you want the future to be. It’s best written in the future tense.
  • Your Mission describes what your organisation is there to do, and how you contribute to achieving the Vision. It’s best written in the present tense.

Some organisations choose to:

  • bring together the Vision and Mission into one statement
  • have a statement of their organisations Purpose as well as the Vision and Mission statements
  • have a Purpose instead of the Vision or Mission.

You can also describe what you’ will do to deliver your Mission and get closer to achieving your Vision over a period of time through a set of high-level goals.

Helpful points to consider

Does the summary of your purpose and direction:

  • meet the needs of the people and communities you seek to serve? To make sure it does, bring in different perspectives and experiences by involving a range of people.
  • fit with your organisation’s charitable purposes (as described in your governing document? If it doesn’t, these should be reviewed too.
  • still feel right if a lot has changed around you? In times of uncertainty and change, you might want to start your strategy process by understanding your landscape and conditions before confirming your organisation’s purpose and direction.

Theory of change

Another way to understand and describe your purpose and direction is through a Theory of Change. This describes the big long-term change you want to see, and what it takes to get there.

It can be represented in a change map (a visual representation of the change you want to see and how you expect it to come about), as a narrative (a spoken or written account of connected events; a story), or both.

Read our guidance on Theory of Change.

Values – how you will work

Organisations will usually also consider how they’ll work - agreeing on and explaining how you want your people to behave and interact. This is usually described as a set of Values or Behaviours.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are closely linked to values. Read more about this on our governance pages on EDI.

Last reviewed: 04 July 2022

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 04 July 2022

Back to top

Sign up for emails

Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services