With so much at stake for social change movements, former Program Director at the Haas, Jr. Fund, Linda Wood, shares why investing in leadership is strategic. This blog was originally published by the Packard Foundation.
Hear from the LeadersTrust Advisory Board chair.
“Over the years, we’ve learned more about the particular leadership and capacity challenges that confront organizations working in movements. Though all nonprofit leaders must balance internal and external demands, today’s social change organizations are increasingly working in complex coalitions across issues, such as when an immigrant rights group joins with environmental and economic advocacy groups to advance a broader organizing or advocacy campaign. Executive directors working in multiple tables like these may need targeted support to develop triage and decision-making protocol that can help them prioritize requests on their time. And, with EDs spending more time externally, organizations need resources to develop strong senior teams that can carry more responsibility for internal operations and management.
Similarly, times like these call on boards to work differently. Instead of focusing on what’s best for the organization, boards will sometimes have to consider what’s best for the movement. For example, sometimes board members might be asked to approaching donors to contribute to an important campaign involving many groups even when that contribution could undermine their own organization’s annual gift. Again, this is probably not going to happen without an investment in board development that supports members to learn how to balance organizational and movement needs.
What does this suggest for funders? Unrestricted general operating support is vitally important, but it is not enough. We can’t put executive directors in the position of having to make a difficult choice between programs and the needs of their organizations. How can we help ensure that social change organizations have dedicated support to build the leadership and capacity they need to play powerful roles in advancing movements?”