It is relatively common for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to unintentionally drift away from its mission. This concept is referred to as “Mission Drift”.
There are a number of signs that reveal an organization is suffering from this problem, including: large turnover of board members and/ or staff; obscurity as to what your organization’s mission is; and becoming stagnant.
One of the most common signs is seeking funding first and building programs around that funding. This can happen with organizations of all sizes, but often becomes an attractive option for organizations that may face financial hurdles. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
Let’s look at this scenario: Although your organization is organized to provide mentoring and enrichment opportunities for underserved adolescents, you come across and apply for grants that serve low-income seniors in underserved areas. This funding can get you over your hump and keep the doors to your nonprofit open. While your efforts may be valiant, this is a dangerous road to go down.
Other than philosophical and ethical reasons, you do NOT want this to happen. Significant changes to your programming may result in significant changes to your exempt purpose. This is something that will NEED to be reported to the IRS, as when you are given tax-exempt status, it is specifically to facilitate your organization in carrying out the purposes you indicate you are organized for. Change that purpose and fail to notify the IRS appropriately? You will run into problems.
Now, all scenarios may not be as obvious the one above- which is why you must be aware of this problem and be proactive in preventing it. Do NOT fall victim to Mission Drift! Need some pointers on what to do to ensure this doesn’t happen? Contact C&G to assist you TODAY!
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