Building Well-being: Nonprofit Infrastructure Week

In a time of uncertainty and consternation, it’s heartening to look at something like the Governor’s Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program (NICIP) and be reminded that our elected officials are doing vital and inspiring work every day, even if that work will never make national headlines. Last year, the State recognized the sector’s urgent need for improvements in infrastructure and pledged $100 million dollars to lend support to nonprofit organizations that enhance the well being of our communities.

Infrastructure is something that we all take for granted. No one spends much time thinking about bridges or electrical grids until the power goes out or the bridge begins to crumble. Likewise, nonprofit infrastructure is often overlooked . The nonprofit world has seen massive cuts in funding over the last few years, seriously constraining their ability to invest in the basic necessities that keep them in business. Things like working elevators, electricity, up-to-date technology, proper heating and cooling equipment, computer equipment, and functioning sprinkler systems and fire alarms. Funders want their dollars to go directly toward the services they are supporting, but oftentimes narrowly earmarked funds leave organizations with no way to deliver them [1].

The NICIP was created to help human services nonprofits address their infrastructure needs. The first NICIP request for applications (RFA), issued in 2015 [2], elicited over 600 applications with requests totaling $280 million dollars. In a state with around 97,700 nonprofit organizations [3], it isn’t surprising to discover that so many nonprofits have unmet infrastructure needs. Faced with almost $1 billion dollars in funding cuts since the Great Recession [4], nonprofits have been struggling just to deliver services, and many have been unable to invest in things like updating their computer systems or replacing outdated heating and cooling systems.. For this reason, we are advocating making the NICIP an annually recurring investment of $100 million dollars.

Research shows that “[o]rganizations that build robust infrastructure—which includes sturdy information technology systems, financial systems, skills training, fundraising processes, and other essential overhead—are more likely to succeed than those that do not.”[5] Investing in infrastructure is an important way to make our communities and our State stronger, and when we have organizations that can operate at their full potential, the results are well worth the cost. This idea drove our advocacy for the creation of the NICIP and continues to drive our efforts.

To build momentum for the coming legislative session, HSC launched the first ever Nonprofit Infrastructure Week campaign as a way to celebrate the creation of the NICIP and to advocate for its expansion. This statewide campaign engaged nonprofits in online and offline advocacy.

  • We devoted the first day to thanking our State leaders, including Governor Cuomo, for creating the NICIP. Their generous support not only directly helps organizations, but raises awareness of our needs on a statewide level.
  • “Tech Tuesday” was next, highlighting the crucial technology updates that nonprofits need to be effective in today’s connected world and to comply with ever-increasing mandates.
  • Wednesday was focused on the perennially important needs around heating, cooling, plumbing, and all the other things we take for granted but without which we simply could not operate.
  • Thursday was devoted to accessibility, which is especially important since many nonprofit organizations’ sole purpose is to serve seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Friday culminated in a look at investing in things that keep clients and employees safe and secure.

The social media component of the campaign garnered significant engagement, and our hashtag, #buildingwellbeing, even reached trending status.

nicipblogpost

We are grateful to the many providers and supporters who liked and shared our posts and came up with their own content. We are especially thankful to Catholic Charities of New York’s for writing their own guide to help their members get involved! [6]

As we move into the busy winter months, HSC, UJA, UNH, and Catholic Charities will ramp up our advocacy for this important part of our mission. We hope that you will join us in our campaign to make the NICIP a recurring program of $100 million dollars a year.

Although Nonprofit Infrastructure Week has passed, it’s not too late to make a personal visit to the district office of your Senator or Assembly Member, so they can get to know you and your organization before the crazed lobbying season begins after the first of the year.

 

The NICIP and the campaign for its expansion have energized and inspired us, and we hope that you join us in fighting to get organizations the resources they need to do their incredibly important work.

Meara Levezow, HSC Policy Intern 

[1] https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2008/01/25/why-every-foundation-should-fund-infrastructure/

[2] The first solicitation was issued on October 28, 2015. That solicitation was cancelled, and a new one was issued on August 5, 2016.

[3] http://www.nycon.org/files/7814/2653/2398/Palm_Card_Template_2015.pdf

[4]http://survey.nonprofitfinancefund.org/?filter=state:NY%7Corg_type:Human%20Services

[5] Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2009. http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_nonprofit_starvation_cycle/

[6] http://catholiccharitiesny.org/blog/tips-tweets-and-infrastructure-awareness-too?utm_content=bufferbf223&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

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About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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