Many non-profits grow opportunistically. They see the need to help; they see a way to provide help; they do it. The problem is, all too often, they end up offering a broad and diffuse set of services that do not support and reinforce their central mission. Such "mission drift" is common. It is also dangerous to a non-profit's long-term health.
First, organizations that suffer from mission drift gradually lose their ability to gain ground on their primary goals. Second, if they are not able to demonstrate that they have a focused mission and a viable long-term growth plan, promising organizations cannot attract the level of general funding they need to grow and prosper over time.
This case study examines how Rheedlen Centers for Children and Family (now renamed Harlem Children's Zone) examined its own growth and programs and made hard decisions in the name of sustainability and impact.