10/100 Things – Sometimes you need to help with the fishing

While we’ve all heard the Confusion quote, “Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” I’d like to put a plug in for fishing together.

Among our clients are a number of very small nonprofits. What it takes to build capacity for a tiny organization with few, if any staff, and a limited number of self-managing volunteers, is significantly more intense than a larger, professionally staffed organization.

At our larger clients, we can help them design a path to the future, and, if they have talented people in place, we are fairly confident that they can traverse the path ahead.

Not so tiny organizations. While these organizations also receive significant benefits from crafting the route ahead, they need much more hands on assistance. Their reality is that they simply don’t have a person or another spare hour to take on a new project.

The people who are there are already responsible for more tasks than any human being could possibly do  proficiently.

In a tiny organization, the staff and volunteers are still expected to know and manage all of the tasks, reporting, regulations, best practices, etc that a large, multi-staffed organization has to manage. I often see the desperation in the lone staff member’s eyes when contemplating how he or she can make more phone calls, take on new projects, or even do things a little differently. Not that they want to be resistent. Just that they can’t figure out how they will ever find the time.

As consultants, our job is to help find new ways to build capacity for these organizations. How do we find experienced volunteers willing to role up their sleeves and do? How can we convince capacity building funders that they need to invest in more people doing – along with their investments in planning or redesign or training?

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