By Kathy Gale, Executive Director, Interfaith Senior Programs of Waukesha County
Overhead, administration, capacity – whatever term is used, the concept of a nonprofit having a strong foundation is key to providing services to its community. All too often, though, capacity issues aren’t addressed proactively, resulting in a nonprofit organization that isn’t able to grow, may not have a strong board of directors, and ultimately isn’t viewed as a viable agency.
Our nonprofit agency, Interfaith Senior Programs, provides direct services and volunteer opportunities to senior citizens in Waukesha County. Our county has the state’s second largest population of seniors, with the number of oldest, age 85 years and older, growing by double digit percentages over the next 10 years. Our ability to grow depends on how strong our agency is, and, if we have in places the right systems and structure to manage increasing requests for services.
Our board president, Ed Olson, and I decided that committing 4 hours per month to take the Waukesha County Community Foundation’s Financial Investment Series was a good way for us to focus on our issues with capacity. The 6-month series, also funded by Thriving Waukesha County Alliance, Summit Credit Union and Schenk, focused on how to build Nonprofit Sustainability.
Something I learned from the series that I’m now using is the Capacity Assessment and Benchmarking Tool. As part of our strategic plan, we wanted to better measure our agency’s capacity regarding planning, facilities, space, and technology. This new tool was a great way to have a discussion with board directors and key staff members and be brutally honest about the organization’s current situation.
As we move forward with implementation of our strategic plan, I know that we will utilize other parts of the Capacity Assessment. The commitment of time and resources made to the series has already benefited our organization greatly. I appreciate having a rich and diverse set of tools for our board and staff to use and appreciate that I can contact colleagues who also attended the sessions to ask questions and share best practices with them.
Making the decision to attend the FCI series was the right decision for us at Interfaith Senior Programs and I encourage other nonprofit agencies in the 4-county region to attend the series in the future.
Interfaith Senior Programs has been a United Way partner since 1999. Their Retired & Senior Volunteer Program is funded under our Income portfolio.