Nonprofit mission creep: good or bad?

Nonprofit mission creep: good or bad?

This is the first in a series focused on the prerequisites for fundraising success.

Happy New Year! We hope you are energized and ready to embrace a new year and new fundraising success. We start 2016 by sharing a few nonprofit fundamentals: your fundraising should focus on securing funds and resources to implement your strategic plan. Your strategic plan is a road map for the activities which bring your mission to life. Your mission is the way your organization expresses its vision.

This means your mission is at the very core of your fundraising. Your mission may be unwavering, or it may change over time. Sometimes that’s “good” and sometimes it’s “bad.” Most of the time it lies somewhere in-between.

Let’s say your nonprofit’s vision is “a world without violence” and your mission is “to teach conflict resolution to teenagers.” Your board has focused on conflict resolution because members have seen how young people quickly move from conflict to violence without knowing how to “de-escalate” the situation and move to resolution.

Your responsibility as a nonprofit leader is to keep your eye on the relationship between vision and mission and to understand the needs of the community you serve. You may find a donor wants you to pilot a new program believing it is a step towards your vision of a world without violence. It makes sense to the board, and the donor wants to fund it. So you add a new program. It is well received by the families you serve, and more donors join with gifts to sustain and grow this new program.

Over time the board looks at the organization and its programming and realizes the “new” program is now it’s largest. This is one manifestation of “mission creep.” Is that “good” or “bad?” That is something for the board to grapple with.

When reviewing your programming against your mission and vision make sure you have both quantitative and qualitative information to guide your assessment. You don’t want your own opinions and experiences to be the only lens that guides your decision making.

For example, it could be that new programming has helped your organization serve people it hadn’t been able to reach before. Or maybe the causes of youth violence have shifted and your initial programs aren’t able to impact teenagers as they had in earlier years. What’s most important is that you evaluate your programs and the environment you are working in to make sure you are in sync with community needs. Your mission may change over time, and that may be good.

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl wish you a Merry Christmas! For more ways you can make a difference in your community visit

Image courtesy of

This week on FUNdraising Good Times....

%d bloggers like this: