Nonprofit capacity is built step by step and project by project. But projects — especially behind-the-scenes ones — are tough to complete when you’re understaffed and underfunded.
That’s the situation in which nonprofits find themselves, according to Common Impact. “The average nonprofit spends 2% of their organizational budget on infrastructure, compared to private sector at 20%,” the organization writes in a 2016 blog post citing research it conducted in 2008.
Like Common Impact, InterSector is finding creative ways to bridge this gap. Launched by the J. J. Keller Foundation in late 2018, InterSector connects nonprofits with business talent and services to increase social impact together.
In its first months of exploration, InterSector conducted a test. We asked 11 nonprofit executive directors and other leaders to identify a “back office pain point” — an infrastructure project — that could be addressed by volunteers willing to put their professional skills to work in kind.
InterSector scoped 14 projects and worked with 38 skilled volunteers from 12 employers to complete most of them. In six months, these HR, IT and marketing volunteers added more than $60,000 in value to the sector, assuming that each volunteer hour they contributed was worth $100-$150, as Taproot Foundation suggests.
While adding meaningful value, these “one-and-done” projects are unlikely to move the needle significantly on organizational capacity. A sustained effort with sequential projects is required to do so.
That’s why InterSector now focuses on partnering with nonprofits to assess capacity, co-create a capacity roadmap, and pair nonprofit leaders with a volunteer capacity coach for a yearlong engagement. This deep connection is designed to turn several small improvements into a step change in organizational infrastructure.
In the image above, J. J. Keller and Associates talent acquisition strategist Cindy Enli gets support from her dog as she works remotely on an InterSector project to revamp job descriptions for Rawhide.