A few years ago, a friend announced her new job in an area that intersected with my organization’s mission.
I offered any help I could give someone new to the nonprofit world.
And then had a moment when I wondered if that could be a problem. Would I be helping some other organization succeed in “our” area?
What a completely stupid thing to think!
But it brought to mind a really good issue. One I’m not sure we wrestle with enough.
Are our organizations committed to a mission, or to preservation?
For organizations seeking to end something – like homelessness or social injustice – it’s crucially important. Is your goal to end homelessness and eradicate poverty?
Or is it to be the most well-funded organization facing the issue?
In other words, how many organizations are working to put themselves out of business?
(This might not always apply. It could be a fuzzy argument in an arts context, for example. Is there ever enough great theater in the world? I’m biased, but I don’t think so.)
But it’s pretty clear – or ought to be – for many of us.
Mission comes first.
And what about the role of collaboration?
I’ve been at meetings where it’s all collegial until we talk about money.
If collaboration helps the cause but hurts your organization’s funding, what’s your choice? And where do you draw the line?
You can’t do your work without stability and sufficient funding.
But working together might get more done. Though that might mean your organization gets less credit – and money.
It’s a little chicken and egg.
It can be hard to see what’s driving things – money or mission.
And what if your organization’s mission has been met?
Do you celebrate and shut the doors – putting people out of work, disappointing loyal donors?
Or do you reinvent and shift toward a different mission?
I don’t know what your answer is.
But we should be asking the questions often:
Are we focused on our mission?
What value are we bringing to the community?
Do we need to exist?
Asking – and answering – those questions often will help keep you focused on what really matters.