Got infrastructure?

Got good infrastructure? 

This article is primarily for CEOs. But if you’re a COO or VP for Finance and Administration and you’re concerned about the ability of your nonprofit to fulfill its mission effectively and efficiently, then this article is for you, too.

Your nonprofit exists to carry out an important mission. Maybe it’s providing health services to low-income people, cleaning up the river that runs through your town, or teaching English to adult immigrants so they can get better jobs. When you wake up each morning, you’re thinking about your mission, the programs that support the mission, and, I bet, the money you need to carry out the programs.

So, you’re probably, and understandably, not spending enough time thinking about your organization’s infrastructure. But if your financial management is weak, or your IT systems are out of date, or your human resources policies are getting in the way of attracting and retaining the best people, then your chance of mission success declines.

Let’s take a few minutes to assess your infrastructure. Below are 15 questions with only three possible answers:  Yes, No, Not Sure. 

Financial Management

1.     Are you receiving financial reports that are accurate?

2.     Are they understandable, especially for staff and board members who aren't fluent in accounting and finance jargon? 

3.     Are they timely?

4.     Are you receiving clear and convincing financial analysis that helps you make key management decisions about the future? 

5.     Is there anything about the way your organization tracks and manages its money that keeps you up at night? 

Information Technology

1.     Are you using up-to-date hardware and software?

2.     Can your staff easily produce reports from your IT system that help inform management decisions?  

3.     To protect your data from hackers, do you have procedures to ensure all key systems are up-to-date with security patches?

4.     Do you periodically get IT audits to ensure that data availability, integrity, and confidentiality are sufficiently addressed? 

5.     Do you have backup systems that are tested periodically? 

Human Resources

1.     Do you have the right mix of employee benefits that helps you attract and retain talented people?

2.     Does your salary structure make it easy for the very best employees to want to work for you year after year?

3.     Do you fill key openings quickly AND successfully?

4.     Do the real reasons behind recent voluntary staff departures reveal an important problem that you need to address?

5.     Do you have trusted systems that enable any employee with a grievance to lodge a complaint, and are employees confident that complaints will be taken seriously and investigated in a discreet but thorough way?

Now let’s count the number of questions that you answered Yes.

12 or more:  Congratulations! You have a strong infrastructure that will help you achieve your mission. Be sure the person overseeing this part of your organization (COO, VP for F&A, etc.) is getting sufficient recognition for his or her accomplishments. You’ve got a valuable and hard-to-replace employee.

7 to 11:  Your infrastructure needs a good tune-up. You have a few areas that need to be analyzed and fixed. These weaknesses are hindering your ability to carry out your mission.

6 or fewer:  Your infrastructure has crumbled more than an aging bridge with potholes, and needs immediate attention. Hopefully current staff can fix the weaknesses, but don’t be hesitant to bring in outside, short-term assistance to diagnose the most pressing problems and come up with solutions you can implement. Consider investing in new systems, and possibly new staff, if that’s what it takes to have a healthy infrastructure so your mission can flourish.

If you have too many No's or Not Sure's, feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss how Slesinger Management Services’s COO Expertise can help you strengthen your infrastructure. I’m always happy to talk to you for an hour or two for absolutely no charge or obligation.