As an executive director, you have an expenditure you would just love to have. Even better, it’s Q4 and you have some budget surplus. The nonprofit needs the purchase, but your board may not be so convinced. How do you get your board on board? Accomplishing this boils down to two things—board roles and your influence regarding the purchase request.
For large expenditures, your nonprofit board likely needs to give their approval. The board should approve any significant financial decisions. Perhaps your expenditure is a new hire, or a salary increase for an existing employee. What if you want to purchase real estate? Maybe you need to make investments related to fundraising. Whatever the purchase is, you must request it from the board.
Legally speaking, an executive director can obtain purchase consent in two ways: board members can vote in a traditional board meeting, or board members can provide a written consent without a meeting. Either way, board member decisions are final and legally binding.
Holding a “real” meeting is the better option because it promotes in-person engagement and discussion. It gives you a chance to present your purchase request in the best light and to answer concerns first hand. If the expenditure requires board approval, it is probably important enough to warrant an in-person meeting in the first place.
At the end of the day, the above is just the legal process. How do you influence the board to make the purchase? It’s a great idea to take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ book: Be prepared.
Put a presentation together. It has to have more than just a great template design. Of course you are excited about the purchase, but try to remove all emotion from your presentation. Be concise, and stick to the facts. It isn’t uncommon for an executive director to talk too long and confuse the decision unfavorably. Once you have made your case, turn over the floor to the board.
Your board will have four concerns: need, cost, benefit, and implementation. Try to consider the purchase from several different perspectives other than your own. When you do this, you’ll be more objective and it is much more likely that you will better see all the positives as well as the negatives.
Do your homework and be prepared. Anticipate board questions ahead of time and go ahead and answer them in your presentation. Likewise, anticipate board objections and have a plan to address them. What will your board be most concerned about? Cost? Implementation? Something else? Make sure you’re prepared in this area. Keep in mind you may need to make multiple presentations, possibly to specialized sub-committees, in addition to the main board.
Being prepared in your presentation will go a long way toward gaining board approval and more often than not, is a major factor in getting the board’s purchase request approval. Of course, there are times when the board must deny their executive director a purchase request, but don’t let a shoddy presentation be the reason!
Good luck. We hope you get a “yes” instead of a “no!”
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