Capacity is one of the big buzz words in Henderson County. Do we have water capacity to handle our growth? Do we have sewer capacity to all flush at once? Do we have road capacity to handle all those folks moving in, but not staying home? So I wasn’t surprised when I eavesdropped on a discussion about charitable giving capacity.
In the Land of Lost Board Members I was enjoying a tepid glass of fat free, sugar free, extra strength latte while I listened to the conversation at a nearby table. Two people were discussing how much is too much. One of those was my old friend Bella Pelorizado. She had recently closed down her successful nonprofit organization and had gone into the consulting business. Sitting with her was a gentleman looking worn and tired. He was another old friend, Buff Now, the older brother of Cash Now, CPA to the nonprofits. Buff had organized a community support service that relied on local community professionals to supply free service as volunteers. They were talking about the gifts of time and talent that so many nonprofits receive from loyal volunteers.
Buff asked, “How long can I keep going back to my volunteers and ask for more – free service, free supplies, free advice? I worry that soon my volunteers, willing to take a few free clients, will find that their paying clients are less than the free ones. So I wonder is there a number, or maybe a percentage of free to pay?
Buff had organized a community nonprofit call Fitfree, designed to address fat, ugly people and change them into something more appealing. In fact their vision statement is ‘From appalling to appealing – the e is the difference – exercise, energy, eat less.’
Buff had a cadre of fitness professionals offering free service and training to his clients. So that was the dilemma – when did a fitness coach feel the pinch? But that is the question many nonprofits face, when have we asked for the final straw?
Bella nodded in agreement as her amazing curls jiggled behind her ears. “I know what you mean, we must be respectful of our volunteers.”
“Bella, how do I balance the requests for free service with available volunteers?” Buff could not sit still for long and stood beside his chair doing an impromptu workout. “Bella, “two, three , four, “give me a standard,” five , six, seven, eight , “how about some criteria for service management?”
“OK, Buff,” puff, puff, (Bella gets winded just watching exercise!) “I’ll take a stab at it. I think you should try several approaches and be flexible.” Buff stretched and bent. “Ah, I see you are flexible.” She fluffed her hair. “I recommend a two phased approach.” Her hair scribed, ‘Phase One!’ She began, “Set limits on your free asks of your volunteers. No coach should have more free clients than any other coach. I do think,” she said, “there is a limit to the number of ugly people one can face during a day.” She thought some more, “How many fat and ugly people are you working with?”
Her hair bounced and spelled UGGGLY above her head.
She fluffed again and her hair spelled ‘Phase Two!’ She was coming to the BIG IDEA, as she said, “Now you have to develop a plan to build capacity,” She sat back and looked at Buff. He stopped in mid flex. “Let me explain,” she hurried on. “You have plenty of clients, you have donors anxious to keep the ugly at bay. What you need is more volunteer capacity. More volunteer coaches! This town is growing, Buff,” Her hair was electric, she was on a roll. “There will be plenty of fat, ugly people moving in, but there will also be plenty of healthy, fitness types, too. You just have to find them. Look into every gated tennis court, on every private golf course. Some of the folks you find will be healthy. They will also be interested in becoming good community members. Some will choose to volunteer to deliver meals, some will want to help in a literacy program, or help at a shelter, or thrift shop. But some will be offended by ugly and want to work with you. You just have to get your plan of recruitment ready. Expand your capacity to offer volunteer opportunities to those who value health and exercise. There you have it – planned growth to serve all those needing exercise!”
Bella had done it again. Capacity is the issue and building it is the challenge.
July 2007 How Full is the Glass-