Resisting Pressure from Funders to Change Your Mission

Dear Kim,

Our organization was founded to serve immigrant women.  We provide English language classes, job training and a host of other services.  Over the years, we have served men from time to time, and of course we serve children in order to serve their mothers. We are under pressure from funders to change our focus away from women to everyone.  We really don’t want to—we think there is something inherently valuable in claiming a space for women and focusing on the particular issues immigrant women face, even when those issues might be the same ones men face. But some board and staff say we are making too big a deal out of this and we should just change our focus and get the money.  What do you think?

~What Should Money Buy?

Dear Should,

I really want to scream:  NO, NO, 1000X NO: Do not change your focus and your name for money, or for any reason except if it would make sense. 

But I will resist screaming and answer more rationally:  NO, NO, 1000X NO!  Changing your focus “from women to everyone” makes it sound like there are dozens of categories of people out there besides women.  In fact, there are two—men and transgendered people, and I imagine your funders actually mean MEN.  We focus our programs on a certain subset of people because we recognize that this subset has some particular issues and concerns not found in the entire population.  Your organization was founded by people who felt immigrant women needed some particular attention and—unless that has changed—you need to stay true to your mission.  Believe me, for every funder that wants you to change your mission, there are others that will support you staying true to yourself. 

Good luck!