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Why We Get Mission Drift?

Recently I was teaching a class on Leadership Effectiveness.  The class agreed that organizational performance (mission achievement) was one measure of a leaders effectiveness.  It kind of makes sense – I mean how can I call myself an effective leader if the organization I am leading isn’t effective?  Effective organizations recognize that their programs, services, funding, initiatives, and partners, to name a few; must align with their mission or they fall prey to the dreaded “Mission Drift”.  I asked the class what do they believe are the primary causes of mission drift – here are a few of their responses:

  1. Money, Money, Money – Chasing dollars.  Doing things we have no business doing, just because someone will give us money to do it.  Remember mission won’t follow money, but money will always follow mission – stay true to the mission.
  2. Inability to say no – Trying to be everything to everybody. Successful nonprofits know how to say no to external pressure; if not, everyone (even some funders) will believe you can do all things under the sun.  Sometimes the most effective answer is NO.
  3. Unhealthy Board-CEO relationship – The Board and CEO should be providing leadership from the top.  If anyone should be keeping their eye on the long-term, mission-centric, big picture – it should be the Board and CEO.  Unfortunately when the Board and CEO are engaged in an unhealthy relationship this leads to unhealthy conflict which becomes a distraction, then conflicting agendas arise, focus is lost, and mission-drift begins.
  4. Displaced Loyalty – When your loyalty to a program, service, board member, or donor takes precedence over your loyalty to the mission of the organization, you are cracking the door from mission drift to creep in.

These are just a few of the reasons we discussed that nonprofits fall prey to mission drift – What are some additional reasons you’ve observed?

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