Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Go BIG or go home (is mission the price for BIG though?)

As a teen every summer I spent a week at a camp meant to build values and leadership. My first years we had about 60-75 people. You had the chance to meet everyone. It was a close knit group and there was no hiding. This small group of people changed my life. I fit in.

But leadership wanted bigger impact and more kids! They had big plans and the only way to get there was more money and more kids.

My first few years, we had to earn our way to camp. We had to complete volunteer hours, attend fundraisers and be active in our local club.  But since we earned our way there, it meant so much more. We felt a sense of ownership in making the camp the best possible experience.

To get the bigger numbers quicker, you no longer had to earn your way. The hope was to get kids there, then show them the way. But the kids were not invested, they were there to have fun.  Suddenly there were more problems, which led to more rules. This of course led to more kids trying to get around the rules. All sense of trust and responsibility was lost.

With the rapid growth also came crowd mentality over individual expression. With the increase in attendance came a shift of ownership, now the staff had to be in change, just to keep control. It was no longer our responsibility to have a good experience. The staff now had to entertain us and if isn't fun, the staff were blamed.

In my opinion, mission was the price we paid for growth.

I often wonder if this is a common challenge for nonprofit technology staff. 

Do we look to increase efficiency, build capacity, innovate, help staff, and expand our organization through technology without considering the impact on our mission?

As technology staff are we connected enough to the mission to know the impact of our projects and plans?

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