Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report – “And the word is…” LFCL Tom Zolot

As we all know, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused.  This for some reason is equally true if you are successful or struggling.  It is true for individual people and most definitely true for companies or business and yes, true too for charities and non-profits.  There exists a term in the non-profit world called ‘mission creep’.



Creeping refers to a process of spreading, slowing but surely.  When it comes to non-profit strategy and thinking, ‘mission creep’ refers more directly to the process of accumulating new and wonderful projects that don’t exactly fit the original goals or mission.  This is usually the result of either a) overambitious staff finding new and almost valid new projects or b) there existing funding for almost the same mission as the original one.  “We’ll qualify if we just do a few new projects…”  These are the dreaded words which signal, MISSION CREEP!!

Mission creep isn’t always a death sentence, sometimes it’s not even a problem.  Sure marketing might need to change and the elevator speech gets a few more commas but sometimes it’s totally valid to change, add or grow.  What confuddles me personally is how organizations grow without creeping.  In a time when closures of programs almost only are seen as failures (wiping out diseases seem to be the only exception), then how do we change and grow without becoming ‘creepers’?

The Cooperative has changed its focus since its inception as the city and its immigrant populations’ needs changed.  I have tried to refer to this process and differentiate it from ‘mission creep’ and I was struggling for a time with how to name it.  Today, now I feel like I have the right term: maturity.

In a time of light speed tech upgrades and revolving doors of messages and images, non-profits seem to be accused of either failure (closing programs) or mission creep (expanding).  What is difficult is to grow in a reasonable manner that matches the needs of its participants (maturing).  I think the key to that delicate balance of being an organization that is maturing is to be cautious but also generous.  We, as non-profits, need to listen and survey needs constantly and know that the needs of our populations are changing and maturing too.

New Orleans in general is in a time of great change and has been since August 31st 2005, maybe ever since Mr. Bienville decided that a field of palmettos and cypress could be cleared to make a little town.  The Cooperative as well has had to mature.  The needs of immigrants and all people can only be met if our organizations listen, keep listening and keep maturing.

Field ripe for French colonization

Field ripe for French colonization



This entry was posted on March 31, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.


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