And while nonprofit staff and leadership greatly appreciated the advice on how to avoid mission creep, board members asked a key question that we did not get to cover in that initial article: “What if we’re already dealing with mission creep – how do we respond?”
So, in this article we are going to address mission creep from that perspective. What do you do when mission creep is already happening? How can you recognize it? And what do you do to stop it?
Mission creep can have a wide range of negative effects on a nonprofit, including:
Unfortunately, mission creep causes nonprofit casualties every year, which is why one of the most important parts of nonprofit planning is deciding when to say yes and when to say no as opportunities are presented. So, let’s take a look at how to avoid the trap of mission creep.
From 2020 to 2022 we saw what became known as “The Great Resignation.” That means that as some leaders left their leadership posts, others took their places. By now though, for some of those new leaders, the honeymoon may be coming to an end. They can no longer blame the previous leader for “leaving a mess.”
Listen up: It’s time for some real talk. If you have been dealing with that “mess” for over a year, it is now YOUR mess that you haven’t taken care of. New leaders who came in with promises of new directions, contacts, and results are now at a point where board members will start asking, “Where’s the Beef!?” (Look it up! It’s a dated pop culture reference!)
The weight of the toll depends largely on the nature of the work being done, with nonprofits in the social services-type spaces (addiction, sex trafficking, domestic abuse, homelessness, food insecurity, etc.) carrying the heaviest weights. However, regardless of the focus of the mission, employees in the nonprofit sector working for the betterment of people, animals, the environment, or the community at large, all bring home some measure of emotional baggage as a result of caring so much, so often.
This can be an incredibly difficult question to answer!
Anyone in the nonprofit space can give you examples of wonderful collaborations they have been a part of where the outcome was far greater than either organization could have achieved on its own. These collaborative wins are fuel for high impact nonprofit missions – the veritable magic that can make 1+1=3 …or 4 …more.
And yet, anyone involved with nonprofit work can also give you examples of when collaboration was an organizational killer – the precipitating factor that derailed an organization’s mission, culture, or effectiveness. Collaborating on the wrong projects or executing collaborative efforts poorly can result in mission creep, stretching an organization too thin and diluting their impact.
Everyone contributed insights into what the current nonprofit search landscape was looking like right now. The goal was to share what we are hearing and seeing to keep our team at the forefront of today’s rapidly shifting nonprofit employment trends.
When everyone had had a chance to weigh in, we realized we had a great nonprofit hiring resource in the making. So today we are sharing these industry insights with you to help inform your organization’s recruiting efforts.
Why? One primary reason is that organizational leaders are being impacted at unprecedented levels by uncertainty and upheaval within organizations and in our society broadly. As the International Coaching Federation’s 2022 Consumer Awareness Study states, "In times of great change, and increasing pressures and demands, coaching is only seen to be more relevant."
But why are so many more organizations turning to coaching? Can't consultants offer the same kind of services? Let’s look at ways that they differ and how they can complement each other.
Maybe this is due to concerns over other timely threats (the economy, foreign military conflicts, the rising cost of living) or sheer fatigue from being on guard for so long. Or maybe it’s because respected health organizations like the WHO have announced that the end of the pandemic is near. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause.
But regardless of what’s driving it, most of society seems to be largely ignoring COVID at this point. People are gathering with friends and loved ones, traveling again for leisure and for business, and expecting that in-person events are going to be held like they were before. Office work may continue to be remote or hybrid, but in all other areas we are back to a face-to-face culture.
This perspective shift is important for nonprofit organizations to understand if they are going to continue to be effective, and here's why:
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