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.
Always Ask “Why?”
Nonprofits must decide what they will do, for whom, when, and how. Inherent in that discussion is what kind of help they will need to do the work that fuels their mission. Typically, this kind of discussion revolves around determining which organizations to partner with, how to recruit enough volunteers, where to find grants, and how to motivate donors to give. But the most important part, which can sometimes get overlooked, is why. Always ask why. Why is it important to offer a new program or launch a new community service? Without answering that why before getting started, mission creep is far more likely to occur.
As you answer the question of “Why?” always keep your mission at the center of everything you do. Of course, this requires having a firm, clear mission to lean on. If your organization’s mission is too vague or lacks clarity in some areas, shoring that up is an important first step. Your mission should not only identify what you do and how you do it but also what makes your organization special to differentiate it from other similar organizations.
Create and Follow Established Processes
With your core mission in mind, follow a formalized decision-making process to vet ideas before they are invested in or embarked upon. Create a process that new ideas are subject to and communicate it between your board, executive leadership, managers, and staff. Outline not only what it takes to say yes to an idea, but also reasons why you would say no. Then, actually practice saying no. It’s in our nature as nonprofit people to want to say yes and to do more, but knowing how to say no is extremely important. Remember the old adage in these situations: “’No’ no to one thing, but ‘Yes’ is no to a lot of things.”
Align Branded Communications
As your organization evolves, be sure to regularly assess how it is portraying itself to ensure everything points back to its core mission statement. Ensure that all program materials share similar branding and messaging to avoid a confusing patchwork facade. Convey this same appearance and verbiage on social media as well. Solicit feedback from the community and your employees to understand the perspective of the people most intimately involved with the organization.
Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Communicate as often as possible. Update everyone as you evaluate possibilities and make decisions to keep key stakeholders on the same page. This is especially important when it comes to big decisions because you are more likely to get buy in when saying yes to big strategic shifts if stakeholders have been kept in the loop from the beginning. It also gives you the opportunity to solicit feedback from people who have their expertise in different areas or can draw on different lived experience to better inform your decision-making.
When you are evaluating whether to collaborate or launch a new a venture, experienced leadership is of paramount importance. We offer nonprofit consulting as well as board advisory services to ensure your organization has access to the kind of advice it needs to make strategic decisions and execute them effectively from beginning to end. Contact us today to find out more!
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