Everyone you want or hope to get involved in the work of your organization in any capacity - partners, employees, etc. must clearly understand what your organization seeks to achieve else you risk failing to attract any partners or attracting the wrong kind of partners. The vision and mission statements are your insurance against this risk.
In simple terms, a vision statement paints a picture of the future you see and hope to realize through your organization while the mission statement outlines what you will be doing to realize your vision.
"A malaria-free world", "A malaria-free Africa" and "A malaria-free Uganda" are all examples of good vision statements for an organization focused on eradicating malaria. Whether you should end with "world", "Africa" or "Uganda" should be informed by the vivid mental image you have of the future.
It is okay for your vision statement to paint a future you cannot achieve on your own. For example, even if your organization does not have the capacity to end malaria in the whole world, you can have a vision for all of humanity and then find partners willing to help you realize it world over.
A vision statement is not a declaration of your organization's capacity and capability but rather your grand and long-term aspirations which if achieved, the products/services of your organization would not be needed.
A mission statement, on the other hand, outlines the practical things you, as an organization, are going to do to realize your vision as outlined in the vision statement.
For example, "To provide free malaria testing and subsidized malaria treatment to families in Uganda" is a good mission statement for an organisation with a vision of a world free of malaria.
A mission statement must be realistic and specific and should be informed by the capacity of the organization to do what it says it will do. You must know what your organization can afford - in terms of expertise and other resources - and let that knowledge guide the writing of the mission statement.
Even if your vision is for the world, if you do not [yet] have the capacity to reach all the people you want to reach world over, you can indicate in your mission statement the places and groups of people you will focus on in the short-term as you build capacity to reach more places and people.
A mission statement should not be vague because a vague mission statement makes it very difficult to plan for implementation activities since you will not know what it is exactly you want to achieve and for whom.
A vague mission statement also makes it very difficult to assess the impact of your work because the impact you are supposed to achieve will be known.
In addition to indicating places and groups of people you intend to reach, you can also indicate in your mission statement the number of people you aim to reach through your work. However, as you define these parameters, remember not to be too restrictive because people will question the credibility of your organization if they see you doing work outside the parameters you defined for your organization.
Vision and mission statements form the skeleton of an organization's branding because those two statements define what the organization is all about and, in effect, what it is not about thus giving it a unique identity in the world.
Like wedding vows, the vision and mission statements make public the path an organization has chosen for itself for its lifetime and therefore should not be written casually but only after serious consideration of what you are committing to.
The author is a communications expert