I work with many, many nonprofits that are hungry for many things. They are hungry for volunteers to engage, hungry for some marketing trick to help them break through the noise so they can been seen and their messages can be heard.
Yet, more than anything they are hungry for infrastructure.
In this sector we have created a culture and organizational life cycle that is leaving nonprofits so bone deep hungry for decent infrastructure that they can barely be called organizations. They are not lean, nor are they effective.
They are killing themselves from the inside out. They are not functioning as real organizations, they do not look like them, they do feel like them and they do not serve their clients or communities well.
Why? Because they do not articulate clearly the TRUE cost of their programs or what it takes to run their organizations.
Underfunding infrastructure has been such a dysfunctional way of life for so long that we have begun to BELIEVE that it is normal and the way we are supposed to live.
Businesses that invest in infrastructure— accounting systems that work, technology that helps rather than hinder, skills training for staff and volunteers, organizational development, fundraising systems and processes, and other essential overhead—are the ones that succeed. Nonprofits are businesses. Businesses that focus on social change and social enterprise, but a business non the less. Businesses that invest in infrastructure not only survive, they actually thrive.
We have underfunded infrastructure for so long that it has become our mythology. You know the lies we have told ourselves for years: Low pay is required -you must make do with what you have- you must do without- there is no funding for training.… We believe that we can do more with less time and time again. I am here to tell you that is actually not true.
You can NOT always do more with less.
You can only do so much with less.
So in 2012 I want you to figure out what it will actually cost you to get the outcomes you want. What is the real cost of impact? Because THAT is the real cost of doing business. Let this be the year we feed our entire organization, and lets feed it well.