July 12, 2018

pov: Make Time to Invest in Your Organization, Team - and Task Chairs

by Kate Rubalcava, CEO of the Utah Nonprofits Association

There are two times a year when schedules slow a bit, the work load feels different and we are thinking of family, fun and time off. For much of the United States December is that month. In Utah, July becomes that magical second month where we switch gears. Cheers to our Founding Fathers and the Pioneers for making that happen.

Although it is blazing hot outside and our work never stops we are afforded those slow, peaceful moments of reflection and planning. It is these times that I love thinking about ‘what could be’ and the ‘what ifs’. For many of us in the sector those moments are precious. We’re usually tackling a complex problem, writing a grant proposal or report, recruiting potential board members or even taking out the trash or cleaning the office fridge.

As part of a side gig, I have the pleasure of being an adjunct faculty at Westminster College in the School of Education. I’m sharing this because one of my students recently presented on scarcity mindset at nonprofit organizations as it relates to professional development and the office equipment needed to be successful. This student elevated, to the forefront of my mind, the need we have to recharge as a sector. Not just as it relates to our work-life balance, (and if you read my article in last month’s newsletter, you will know that that’s important to me) - but as a team – as an organization. So that we can address issues at a programmatic level and as those issues relate to our budget. For us to really examine whether or not our budgets match our goals, our strategic plan, and the real organizational needs.

I understand the fear of a funding rejection after presenting a budget/grant to a funder. I understand having your board tell you there isn’t enough revenue to sustain the stretch goals. I understand the desire to just ask for, expect, and report on the status quo. But our sector doesn’t need more mediocrity – not in funding, not in professional development, and not in our human capital. We need vibrancy and we need funding commitments that match our budgets. Budgets that are created based on true need – not the status quo. This former student of mine talked about an office chair that magically lowered (unannounced) and an organization that didn’t have professional development funds allocated in their budget and how the combination of those things lead to perceived decrease in morale and worth.

If we’re going to challenge the status quo and if we’re going to expect more from our team, we need to invest in the people, the programs, and for crying out load – task chairs. Naturally, as an organization whose primary service delivery is professional development for nonprofit professionals, you should come to expect that I am going to tout our training and encourage participation in it. Beyond that however, depending on your position at your organization you should either be sending your team to professional development training or you should be asking for it.

This morning I sat with UNA’s Board Chair (Cathy Barnhart, ED of the English Skills Learning Center) and heard her tell someone that she sends her staff to UNA trainings because she wants her team to develop their leadership skills and grow as professionals. Last month at a Nonprofit Organizational Credential training course, our instructor (Lisa Maxwell) told the students that the training they were attending was worthy of reporting back to funders and the board because it’s an investment in the organization.

We are all up against time and money. Time because we have so little of it to think broadly about the ‘what ifs’ or the ‘what could bes’. Money because professional development is a financial investment. In these dog days of summer, this magical month of July, I make this challenge to you – take some time to breathe deeply and dream about where you want your organization (or program) to go and how you might get there. And then answer this question, “Can I free up $1,000?” This is what $1,000 can do for you:
• UNA Annual Membership – $530 (Based on budget and the majority of you pay $200 or less)
• Annual Conference registration for three of your staff – $125 x 3 = $375
• One Nonprofit Organizational Credential course each year for two staff – $150 for first person + $25 for an additional = $175

Total investment in professional development to elevate your organization and strengthen your team = $1,080.

Just in case you’re curious, UNA’s annual professional development budget is $1,050. We also pay close to $9,000 in membership dues to professional organizations. Our annual budget is approximately $377,000. Anything is possible when leadership prioritizes budget line items, when the board approves a budget, and when funders sign the check.