Forget about the funders – convince yourself first you’re worth investing in.
There’s a lot of conversation in our sector about changing the current funding paradigm that is seen as short-term, project-related, and restrictive. Important blog posts like The Ethical Argument for General Operating Funds take a stab at changing the narrative within the funding community. Here at Vantage Point, we took up the conversation through our podcast on the topic The overhead myth: Let's end it once and for all!
I can understand the focus of getting buy-in from funders. We are incensed that most funding approaches don’t reflect the reality that to develop and execute amazing programs, we also have to develop the organizational capacity to support those services.
To understand “capacity”, think of the table legs underneath the table top of programs, as in the capacity framework that we use here at Vantage Point, from the Non-Profit Lifecycles Institute:
What I’ve come to realize in my years of consulting with organizations to strengthen these table legs, however, is that not-for-profit leaders themselves must first believe in the power of capacity. It’s beyond a “funding paradigm” that requires shifting - it’s the more deeply held belief system many not-for-profit leaders hold that another $ received has greater mission impact if it is directed to programs. Founders who can’t say no to another “client” (e.g., a child they feed, a family they uphold, an animal they shelter, a senior they care for), establish a culture that rewards short-term accomplishment rather than encouraging innovation and investment for the long-term. The fact is, solid management, governance, financial resources and administrative systems are essential for mission-critical programming to thrive.
If, instead, we each believed in the power of investing in our organizational table legs, we risk equipping ourselves with the resilience and capability to serve our evolving communities for decades – instead of years – to come. That’s a risk I’d like to take!
How will you prioritize strengthening your organizational table legs?
What would it take for your organization to be ready to spend resources on a project that is focused internally on organizational learning – on capacity?
If your organization is ready to invest in long-term mission impact, join us for Vantage Point’s very first Capacity Lab, a seven-month program designed for your board and staff leadership team to build a capacity enhancement plan for your organization.
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