Challenge #4: Avoiding Mission Drift


Every nonprofit organization started out with a mission. We all want to affect meaningful change and make a difference in the world. But sometimes, the stresses of working for a multi-faceted organization with many moving parts, processes and events can blur our vision. Despite our best efforts, sometimes our team loses sight of the big picture. Today, we are looking at the fourth challenge in our week-long series of 5 Common Nonprofit Challenges and How To Solve Them.

4. “How do we stay on track and avoid Mission Drift?”

This is an common challenge every organization will face in some manner. Here are some thought-provoking questions that may help you diagnose the issue:

• How often does your board reflect on your mission statement so it remains fresh in everyone’s mind and can serve as a back drop for the board’s discussions that day? It can be so easy to add new programs to your basket of offerings that seem to be helpful to your clients. However, this practice can distract an agency from what it does best and result in poorer service and poorer results overall.

• Is the meaning of your Mission Statement crystal clear to everyone? How often do you discuss your agency’s Mission Statement at board and staff meetings? Is the wording tight enough or does sit allow for interpretation? Does everyone know what it means and exactly how their role helps achieve it?

• Does your agency have any sacred cows or pet projects? Sometimes, founders and long-serving directors will try to “power up” and use their considerable influence to retain programs they personally like (or volunteer in) but which no longer fit the agency’s direction. Ruthlessly root out anything that does not directly go to achieving your mission and stated goals.

• Have you said no to any new ideas lately? If not, you may be allowing mission drift programs to gain foothold at your agency. Learn to say no or “Let’s talk about this when we are ready to evaluate all our programming to see if we need to change our basket of services”.

• How often does your agency step back to assess direction and progress? Consider conduct a bi-annual or quarterly reviews of direction and key strategic initiatives. Do they align with your mission statement? Are they and your goals and budgets all still in alignment? When conditions or key assumptions change, there may be a need to reassess direction. Someone once said:

Methods are many
Principles are few
Methods always change
Principles never do

• How often do you evaluate your current program offerings? How do you know if your programs work? Which programs are your least effective and how much do they cost? How does the 80/20 Rule evidence itself among your programs? Should any be dropped or out-sourced if other agencies do it better?

I hope I have offered some insight into solving the issue of mission drift for your agency. If you have more questions or thoughts on this challenge, please contact me or comment below. Don’t forget to check out the 5 Steps for Strategic Planning resource (link below) for tips on creating an effective strategy for your organization.

Create a plan for your agency that works!