Nonprofit mission creep- what is it? You may be unfamiliar with the terminology, but you are likely very familiar with the definition. Mission creep happens when a nonprofit strays beyond the original mission of the organization. It’s very easy to do subconsciously and often occurs after a nonprofit sees some success of their own and wants to extend the success to areas that were not originally in the plan- all with great intentions.
But what happens when your mission starts to creep? You end up spending a lot of resources, time and energy on something that ultimately was not what you felt called to pursue and does not directly enhance the end goal of your cause. And often, it actually dilutes the efforts you have in place that are impacting your original intent as a nonprofit.
So, to help you make sure your mission doesn’t get too creepy, we put together four things that will help you stay in your lane and ultimately help you make a bigger impact.
1. Find your niche.
Solving world hunger sounds like a wonderful thing and one worthy of a beauty pageant answer, but it’s REALLY tough to get behind and believe in tangibly as a donor and follower of the cause. So, if your passion is to end world hunger- dial it in with some specifics that allows people to hold onto and adds filters that help you understand the guardrails for your cause.
Not only does your niche help you identify your audience and who would be interested in hearing about your mission, but it also helps you set benchmarks and see measurable results instead of spreading your efforts too thin.
2. Be clear about your mission.
It’s so easy to let your excited passion for your cause overflow into your communications and mission statements- but often that leads to unclear messages and flowery language that makes it tough to understand in a very concise manner what it is that you seek to do.
Make it simple, easy to understand, and completely clear.
Here’s one of our favorite examples of a mission statement by a successful nonprofit:
“charity: water brings clean and safe drinking water to people in need around the world, improving health, education, and opportunity - especially for women and children.”
Do you have any questions right off the bat about what they do? Nope. We may have deeper questions about how they do it and what they’ve done so far, but we don’t leave that statement with confusion or questions about what they do as an organization.
3. Learn to say “No.”
This is one of the hardest things to learn as a nonprofit who wants to help everyone they can and do anything they can. But it is absolutely ok to say no! It doesn’t make you Uncle Scrooge just because you decline a request to help another cause in some way.
“Yes people” are great for certain environments, but ultimately saying yes to the majority of things that are passed through your plate as a leader of a nonprofit will be the birthplace of mission creep.
4. Use your mission as a filter for decision making.
This is a great fail-safe. When in doubt when presented with an opportunity for your nonprofit growth, just ask yourself, “Does this align with our mission and end goal?” And if the answer is yes, jump on it like Apache. If not, it is likely best to set aside.
Now, we don’t say all this to discourage you from setting audacious goals and running after them. Do what you feel passionately about as an organization. Do it with purpose, strategy and intentionality. But stick to drivers that move you towards your end goal because you are doing incredible work and your mission matters.
P.S. If you need help clarifying your mission or strategy as a nonprofit, we got your back. If you haven't heard of StratLab, you need to check it out. It will kick your organization in gear and headed towards your goals for greater impact. And it's fun- what more could you ask for?