Your nonprofits mission statement should serve as the foundation for your organization’s vision and goals. Your mission statement is the glue that holds your nonprofit together and creates a summary of your organization’s key purpose.
Creating a clear and concise mission statement is important because it communicates your organizations desired outcome to all stakeholders and creates a clear focus for all decisions that are made. One issue that many nonprofits face over the course of their life cycle is called mission creep.
Mission creep is when your nonprofit organization expands its mission beyond the original goals that were set. There is a difference between mission creep and making strategic adaptations to a mission statement to evolve as needs change around us.
The difference is that strategic adaptations should be weighed organization-wide and involve a critical thinking process before implementation. Mission creep usually occurs as a rash decision or during a crisis situation.
There are several negative potential side effects of mission creep. We will discuss a few of these impacts.
Mission creep can stretch an organization thin
One of the biggest negatives that mission creep can have on a nonprofit is its potential impact on organizational resources. Most organizations today are already limited on their access to the resources needed to achieve their nonprofit’s mission. According to Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) nonprofits are still struggling (since the recession) to find the resources they need to respond to new opportunities and changes in their environment.
Mission creep can sabotage a nonprofits ability to reach its original goals or increase the time needed to achieve them. Keep in mind that expanding your nonprofit’s mission to achieve a new goal often requires additional training, added responsibility for your organization’s staff, and an impact on your nonprofit’s budget.
Adding additional goals to your nonprofits workload may look good on paper but is the new commitment worth taking you off course from your original organizational goals? (the reason your nonprofit started to begin with). Only your nonprofit can answer this question.
Potential to impact reputation
Reputation means everything in the nonprofit industry. Nonprofits today rely heavily on public trust to reach their goals. Mission creep can have a negative impact on your nonprofits reputation in a variety of ways. One of the riskiest ways that mission creep can impact an organizations reputation is by blurring communication with stakeholders. Here are a few ways that mission creep can affect stakeholder relationships:
- Can make the process of communicating organizational goals a challenge if the change or add in scope was abrupt.
- Organizational stakeholders may not agree with your nonprofits quick change in direction.
- Organizational donors may question the use of their financial donation.
- Can lead to stretch goals and an inability to achieve milestones.
- Pontential to cause unalignment and confusion for internal staff.
Can cause your nonprofit’s mission to become too complex
It’s always best practice to keep your nonprofit’s mission simple and focused. Mission creep can add unwarranted complexity and blur your organization’s vision for the future. Any time that new goals are added to a nonprofit’s mission there is a risk of causing over complexity. As mentioned earlier it is key that your organization have a process and strategy if making any changes to the mission. All stakeholder and leadership should have the ability to voice their opinions on any potential changes.
Ways to avoid mission creep
- Communicate often and effectively across your organization at all times
- Strategically develop a process for organizational decision-making (communicate it)
- Make sure everyone understands your current mission, values, goals, and vision
- Teach others in the organization how to say “no” (sometimes you have to)
- Incorporate clear strategic focus in all you do
- Consider stakeholders in any organizational decision that could affect the mission
- Use your mission to guide all decision-making practices
Almost all nonprofits make decisions every day that has the potential to impact their organization’s mission and push them off-course. Decisions need to be made carefully and potential risks should be considered prior to making any commitment or change. The easiest way to avoid mission creep is to strategically develop a process for effective decision-making that puts your mission and stakeholders first. Decisions are an inevitable part of everyday business in the nonprofit industry….think before you say “yes.”