September 30, 2018

Get Your Board to Buy-in to Expanding Your Capacity

How to Convince Reluctant Boards to Invest in Capacity TodayWe once wrote a contract to buy a house and failed to sign the deposit check. We thought we were committed.
The unsigned document told the real story of our reluctance.
Likewise, you may struggle when it comes to making nonprofit capacity investments. That is, decisions to invest today to improve your organization’s tomorrow. While leadership comes first, capacity investments claim a strong second place for the reasons nonprofits thrive. Over time, these investments build the scaffolding you use to climb to higher, growing more income and more mission outcomes.

You may, for instance, be considering hiring a new employee or increasing wages for your employees–capacity building investments. Attracting and retaining talent generates progress on your mission and good word on the street investment, which, in turn, inspires more support and revenue. (Watch How Can You Keep Your Employees Now to learn the building blocks of an employee retention plan.)

When you lead with vision, not fear, you embrace opportunities, even in the face of rapidly changing circumstances. If, instead, you lead with fear, you pass on investments even when the benefits massively outweigh the risks. Instead of focusing on where you want to be in the future, you focus on what might go wrong now.

1. Make Sure You Are Convinced Enough to Sign the Check

In my experience, you and your staff generate 75 percent of capacity investment doubts. When boards see your doubts, they say no. So to get your reluctant board on board,  first make sure you “sign the check.” Deal with your doubts and fears. Listen to this live stream on how to analyze risk. (The risk assessment tool starts at 4:00.) Work through how you will mitigate any risks you identify.
For example, you want to increase your staff salaries, but you are worried about the ongoing impacts of more significant payroll. What risks do you face doing this? How likely are they? If they do happen, how serious will they be? What steps can you take to reduce the risk?
With that clarity behind you,  present your opportunity to your board.  In most cases, your board will agree. However, some boards will resist. How can you change their thinking? Think about how you will provide them with new information.

2. Offer New Information and Hope

To change your boards’ minds, offer new information and hope. Here’s an example:
  • Introduce new facts. “I researched your questions last week. Here’s data on our expected returns.”
  • Reference peers. “The orchestra’s board, whom we admire, made a similar decision with stellar results.”
  • Reframe the investment in their self-interest.”When you pull this off, people will see your leadership as the turning point in our history.”
  • Invite them to help you to reduce any risks.  “Yes, this involves some risks. Here’s how I plan to offset it? Did I miss anything?”

Why is new information so powerful? It allows your members to save face. Before they decided based on what they knew, the updated information allowed them to come to a different conclusion.

Lead your organization to success. Invest in tomorrow. First, make sure you buy into the capacity investments. Then provide your board with the information it needs to embrace your opportunities. You can achieve breakthrough success tomorrow.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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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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