Keeping an organization true to mission can be one of the most challenging task an organization faces. Mission is at the very core of an organization and should guide all decisions. An organization should review their mission statement annually and revised as part of the strategic planning every 3-5 years. This regular review guards the organization from having mission creep. The sweet spot of an organization is that intersection of the overarching needs of society, the organization’s problem-solving mission and what donors are willing to fund. Mission creep occurs when programs are expanded beyond the original goals of the mission and typically happens when funding is tight.
Every nonprofit faces the double-edged sword of accountability and autonomy. Nonprofits are accountable to the funders for problem-solving outcomes, yet still have the need to be true to the mission goals. There is the need for money, and there is the desire to stay true to the mission. Temptation occurs when a new opportunity presents itself, and the nonprofit finds itself seduced by the lull of money. It is hard to say no to funders who have money, but come with an agenda. An organization can chase money by creating programs that a donor wants to support. Unfortunately, such programmatic reach can spread thin an already overly worked staff. The need for money can force an organization to take on work that falls outside of mission focus.
To stay focused and guard against mission creep, new programs need to be evaluated according to organization’s values that resulted from the strategic planning process. Planned strategic growth is different from mission creep. A change in mission goals may not always be negative. The life cycle of an organization that is in decline calls for efforts to generate rebirth. An organization may need to make changes to keep their organization alive. Change is a process that can sometimes be painful, but can turn out to be transformative. Mission realignment might involve new constituencies, programs or geographic locations.
The important thing is to create a mission statement and stated values in the strategic plan that are achievable and provide clear parameters. By providing a clear picture of purpose and goals, a strong mission statement will engage and energize stakeholders, donors, clients and staff. Just keep it succinct so people can remember it.
Every organization needs to make decision on what to move forward on and what to abandon. Just say “no” to funding that doesn’t align. Say “yes” to what will take the organization to the next level.