In my last post, I wrote about adapting – how the pandemic has forced nonprofit organizations to adapt, and how organizations should use this experience to continually adapt going forward. Today, I am writing about the need to stay the same. But no, these are not contradictory ideas. The type of “staying the same” I am referring to is staying true to your organization’s mission – avoiding the dreaded “mission creep.”
I am writing about this now because the holiday season presents us an opportunity to reflect on the past year. And though we would all like to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, it is critically important to process what your organization has gone through and how you hope things will go next year.
Since the pandemic began, many organizations have seen members of their community struggling and have sought to help them by hosting food and clothing drives, paying for medical care, delivering groceries, and other initiatives. While these activities are clearly beneficial to the recipients, are they actually consistent with your organization’s mission? If not, why is that a problem? Afterall, what can be wrong with helping people in need? There are actually a few problems…
First, your donors give to your organization to support your mission. By taking part in activities unrelated to your mission, you are actually doing them a disservice – you are using their generous donations for purposes other than their intent. Just because that money went to a valuable use does not make it appropriate. Second, you are shifting time, energy, and resources away from the central purpose of your organization. While it may not seem like much, it can become a detrimental habit.
So, if serving your constituents in ways outside of your mission is a bad thing, should you just leave them to suffer? Absolutely not! That is where strategic partners come in to play. For whatever service you want to provide, someone in your community is already doing it. And not only that, but it actually IS their mission to do so. They are already experts at doing the very thing that you want to do as a side project. Take the opportunity to find them, introduce yourself and your organization, and see if there are opportunities to work together for the common good. Perhaps your two organizations can refer your constituents to each other. Even better, you can provide a comprehensive network of service providers within your community, which would only enhance all of your organizations.
Too often, nonprofit organizations operate in a vacuum. Their leaders, whose instincts are to help and support their constituents, try to be all things to all people. The reality, however, is that we are all part of broader communities filled with groups dedicated to serving various needs. It is critically important to work together in partnership to provide the wide range of resources that your constituents urgently need.