Every nonprofit needs a mission statement, vision statement, and core values. These are the building blocks of your organization—the foundation that will support the work you do for years to come. Mission statements provide direction and clarity for your team and stakeholders. They serve as a roadmap for making decisions and show others your “why”—the purpose behind the work you do. When organizations apply for funding that does not align with their mission, it’s referred to as “chasing the money,” which can lead to mission drift. As an executive director, you want to be aware of this potential pitfall so that you can protect your nonprofit from falling into it.
What is Mission Drift?
Mission drift is a term used to describe when nonprofits abandon their original purpose in pursuit of funds or resources. It’s often caused by an organization’s need to stay competitive in the current market or simply due to its own growth over time. It can also occur when an organization relies too heavily on one source of revenue or shifts its focus away from its core competencies in order to meet short-term goals. Mission drift occurs when an organization strays from its original mission in favor of something else that may be more profitable or desirable at the moment—but it is ultimately unsustainable over time.
Preventing Mission Drift
The best way to prevent mission drift is by having clear mission, vision, and core values statements that everyone in your organization understands and follows. These should be revisited regularly to ensure they still reflect where your organization is heading and capturing any changes in direction along the way. Additionally, it’s important to select board members who understand these statements and share your commitment to them—people who are passionate about furthering the cause of your nonprofit rather than simply looking out for their own interests or those of their peers. Finally, always keep communication open between staff members so everyone understands what their role is in furthering the mission of the organization and why they are doing it.
Your mission statement provides clarity around why you exist as an organization; your vision statement gives direction as to where you want to go; and your core values help guide decision-making within the company culture. Together these three elements form a strong foundation for any nonprofit—one that will help protect against drifting away from what matters most: achieving greater impact through meaningful work aligned with your cause! By keeping these principles at the forefront of all conversations, decisions, programs, projects, collaborations (and more!), you ensure that no matter what changes occur throughout the years ahead, your focus remains on fulfilling your original purpose.
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