Mission Drift: How to Keep Your Nonprofit on Course

by Danielle Bloom

2 min read

Ideally, your nonprofit has crafted a mission statement that outlines the purpose of your organization, but over time, it can be easy to drift away from your goals. There are a number of reasons why your nonprofit might drift away from its mission, and there are also warning signs to look for that help alert you when you’ve started to move away from the organization’s original intent. Here are a variety of ways you can work to correct and prevent such movement.

Mission Statement and Mission Drift

When you started your nonprofit, you were responsible for creating a mission statement, which is a definitive document used to outline the purpose of your organization, what it values, what your goals are, how you plan to achieve those goals, and even why those goals are important to your organization. Mission drift, as the term indicates, is basically what happens when your organization starts to move away from the goals it outlined in the mission statement. In certain cases, this can happen entirely by accident. In other instances, this drift occurs intentionally.

The Harm of Drifting

If drifting from your original mission is intentional, the harm is generally more minimal. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that intentional movement away from your organization’s original mission needs to be discussed by all board members and ratified, and a new mission statement drawn up. This keeps everyone at the organization, as well as the public, in the loop in terms of your organization’s purpose and goals. Unintentionally drifting from your mission can be a dangerous path, particularly when the cause is financial. In the quest for more donors and more income to fund your organization, your nonprofit may employ financially motivated tactics that stray from your original goals. It’s not always obvious when this drift starts to occur, and the longer it continues unchecked, the more harm it can do. Ultimately, your organization and the people you aim to serve suffer the most. Donors want to give their money to nonprofits that are using each dollar for maximum benefit and in line with the organization’s given goals or the interest of the population it aims to help most. These donors may choose to funnel their money elsewhere if they see substantial mission drift within your organization. The public will also likely be able to see the drift and may look to other organizations for help.

Avoiding Mission Drift

Avoiding mission drift entirely isn’t always possible, and to a certain extent, some movement from your original mission statement is normal and healthy. But straying too far from your organization’s mission can be detrimental for your nonprofit. To avoid substantial movement from your original purpose, keep your organization in check. Ask the public for feedback regarding how well you’re serving its interests and how much it feels or has witnessed a change in your nonprofit’s mission. Meet regularly with your nonprofit’s board to discuss your mission statement, whether it is still relevant to your organization, and what needs to be done to keep your nonprofit moving toward its goals. Encourage members of your organization to speak up about concerns regarding significant movement away from your nonprofit’s mission. Keeping to your nonprofit’s mission statement is important to your operation. There are a number of ways you can combat mission drift and keep your organization moving toward its goals.

References & Resources

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