Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Watch Out For "Mission Creep"

When times get tough, and funding sources start drying up, we will often chase whatever funding opportunities we can, running down one 'rabbit hole' after another. We will seek out large grants, and see how we can apply for them for our clinic. Be careful here, warning...

What commonly occurs with nonprofits is a phenomenon called 'mission creep'. Mission creep is where we let the money dictate our mission, our objectives and strategies. We find a large grant opportunity, and we make what we do fit the grant's criteria. This is usually a gradual thing, where we start off in a gray area where it 'kind of' fits us, and before long we have drifted away from our mission.

With every funding source, every potential grant, you should ask the question "How will this funding help us to advance our misson?" If it has nothing to do with our mission, stay away from it. This is not to say that a clinic's mission should not be reviewed periodically. However, the review comes BEFORE the funding opportunity reveals itself, not after.

One of the most powerful things I had done as a development director was to turn a funder down because their current grant focus areas did not match our mission. Funders greatly respect honesty and those with a clear vision of their mission, and they can see right through any attempts to 'force' a clinic into a grant priority. The power in turning down a funder in this way comes when they do have a grant opportunity that does match your mission - your credibility is so much higher with them because of it.

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