Support for your work is important. It allows you to maximize efficiency, gain valuable knowledge, create and leverage partners, explore creative solutions, and thereby promote and further the foundation's mission. That support could take a number of forms, such as:
- An administrative support staff person
- A software upgrade
- Travel to a conference
- Re-organizing your time so that you can actually *think*
- Executive coaching
- Participation in a leadership development program
- Streamlining your foundation's grant approval process
- Hiring consulting help to gather research or apply content knowledge
- Working from home a few days each month to block out distractions
Once you've realized how an investment in your own work might help increase your abilities and performance, chances are you'll need to sell the idea to someone up the ladder - either a foundation leader or your board. Here are five steps to help you make your case.
1) Document hours. Spend a week or a month documenting all the hours you are spending on administrative tasks, or playing catch-up because of poor software, or researching things that you could learn much more quickly if you had better access to expertise.
2) Quantify the expense. Based on your salary (plus approximately 25% in benefits), apply an hourly cost to those hours you've documented. Then, look at the comparison to the cost and the value of the solution. How do the hours you spend on administrative tasks compare to the cost of hiring an administrative staff person (who might help others as well as you)? What's the cost of software, or a consultant, compared to the time you've invested in wrestling with outdated programs or trying to get up to speed on the nuances of a particular program area?
3) Highlight the opportunity cost. If you weren't doing the tasks or dealing with the issues that are hampering your effectiveness, what would you be doing instead? What would the value of those other activities be to the foundation? These aren't always easy to quantify, but doing so can help. So can anecdotal examples. What could you have done better in the recent past if you'd had adequate resources? How could you have accomplished more? What relationships could you have built, what grantees could you have visited, what new funding opportunities could you have explored, or how could you have better engaged your board members had you not been writing up notes from the collaborative meeting, filling out travel reimbursements, or organizing thick board dockets.
4) Explain that it's not just about you. The challenges you experience will most certainly have negative effects on others. If you're in a large organization, those others could be your entire team. If you're a one-person shop, those others could well be your grantees. They could also be partners or allies. Name them and explain how your lack of access to technology, or your gaps in knowledge, or the time you spend on administrative tasks is keeping others from being effective.
5) Tie it to the foundation's overall mission and effectiveness. After all, that's the bottom line. The stronger the connection you can make between an investment in your own capacity and an increase in the foundation's ability to achieve its mission, the stronger your case.
You've entered the philanthropic world for the right reasons, so it's worth it to make sure you can pursue your work the right way - effectively, efficiently, creatively and knowledgeably. If that's not a worthy case for support, then I don't know what is.