Infrastructure: Not Alluring, but Imperative

12/11/2016 10:22 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

By: Amy Wishnick, Wishnick & Associates, LLC
Infrastructure: “The underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization)” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Not particularly alluring.

The esteemed panel of nonprofit professionals speaking at the ACN’s 2015 annual meeting shared many worthwhile insights about current issues and trends in the nonprofit sector. One in particular that resonated was the importance of infrastructure. The point made in the discussion was that, to paraphrase, infrastructure should not be ignored; it is imperative for mission fulfillment.

Mission fulfillment – programs and services – now we’re talking. Yet, without support, the infrastructure, they would not be as significant and might not even exist.

Highly developed programs and services can only go so far if any aspects of an organization’s infrastructure are less developed. Why? Because all aspects of an organization are intertwined. Let’s use a restaurant as an example. We all have had an experience at a restaurant with a terrific chef, a stunning menu, and a beautiful room that, sadly, had a slow kitchen, a disinterested wait-staff, and – you fill in the blanks. If we think of a restaurant’s concept and food as mission and program and the rest as the infrastructure, we see how critical these things are to success. Without a solid infrastructure – a smoothly functioning front of the house, a knowledgeable and dedicated staff, the right kind of visibility in the community, and attention to the bottom line – no restaurant will survive. Divine food alone cannot ensure success.

If we substitute mission-driven organization for restaurant, and we were donors not diners, we wouldn’t make a second contribution. If we were clients, we might not avail ourselves of the services again. Not only is attention to infrastructure crucial for organizations, it underscores the importance of the work we do as capacity builders and providers of consulting services focusing on board development, governance, fundraising, strategic planning, finance and accounting, grant writing, marketing, communications, evaluation, volunteer management, operations, human resources, technology, and more. Without these critical aspects, an organization’s mission would have no support. In our experiences as nonprofit consultants, we know how important infrastructure is. In addition to compelling missions and meaningful programs, our clients must have:

  • Current strategic plans to assist in decision making and assessing opportunities,
    Clear understanding of what it costs to run their organizations and sound financial policies to manage their finances
  • Appropriate technology and systems
  • Targeted marketing to spread the word to the right constituencies
  • Cohesive fundraising strategies that ensure diverse revenue streams
  • Regular, relevant evaluation
  • High caliber staff committed to their missions and effectively deployed,
    Engaged boards of directors focused on strong governance and mindful stewardship
  • and more

We are privileged to be welcomed by our clients, to get to know their organizations intimately and to develop relationships built on trust so that we can work together to safeguard success and sustainability.
Infrastructure. Not particularly alluring. Imperative.

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