October 3, 2019

How to Convince Your Board to Invest in Capacity

Capacity investments come just after leadership on the list of reasons why nonprofits thrive. Over time, these investments build a scaffolding you use to climb to success. To lead your organization successfully, invest in tomorrow. But what if your board resists making them? First, jump in yourself—sign your checks. Then help you board to embrace opportunities. The video reveals more about these techniques and why capacity investments are essential.

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Transcript of How to Convince Your Board to Invest in Capacity

We once decided to buy a house, and we wrote a check for the deposit to the realtor. And we happily wrote that check, handed it to her, and continued our conversation. We were committed to buying the house, except the day later, when the realtor looked at the check, she realized we hadn’t signed it. So we were NOT so committed after all.

When it comes to capacity investments, nonprofits often have mixed feelings. Capacity investments, by definition, are investments you make in your nonprofit, time, and money so that tomorrow will be better – than today. So, it’s always a struggle between doing that mission now and having a better future or having a future at all. When leaders lead with a vision, they recognize the benefits of that investment. They weigh the risk, and they proceed on the best of those capacity options.

Mirror, Mirror, am I having mixed feelings about capacity investments?
You might be, and one of the things that it’s helpful to think about is that you have always been making capacity investments, in yourself, in the organization. You attend events. You read books. You read enough articles, so you’re always in this micro (at least) investing in capacity, and for your whole life, you have invested, and people have invested in your education. You paid for college if you went to college. If you’ve had a scholarship, someone paid for that. So investments come with the territory in making capacity happen.

I promise you this. If you bring your board a mixed message about capacity building and you’re not sure your board will help you out. They’re there to help you make good decisions, and if they hear that mixed undertone, they’ll say no. We don’t want to do it. It’ll be great. You can say we tried, and it’s the board’s fault. The board will say, “Oh, we’re the heroes. We helped her from making this bad investment or him.”

To avoid that, be clear. After you are clear, then if you have board resistance, you might have a board that likes the status quo, and that’s important. The status quo is good. You’ve got somewhere good, and you can understand why they come there. What they don’t know is that the status quo NEVER stays the same. It always is in pre-deterioration over time.

So to help them, which is 25 percent of the time when there’s resistance, give them new information. Help them see the deterioration possibilities. Help them see that other groups make these kinds of investments. Help them see that if they make this kind of investment, if they help you to invest, they will be seen as heroes in the organization for taking the risk, for going for the benefits, to be heroes leading your organization with vision.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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