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"Our partnership with BSI has been a wonderful opportunity to strengthen public private partnerships on behalf of the early care and education industry in our state."

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Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Critical Capacities Inventory

Introduction

At present, there is not broad understanding or consensus in Montana and other Philanthropic Divide states about how to describe the various components of nonprofit sector infrastructure needed to ensure a vigorous, effective and responsive state nonprofit sector. As an initial step begun several years ago, BSI’s Montana Nonprofit Sector Critical Capacities Project created a preliminary inventory of “critical capacities” needed within Montana to help strengthen nonprofits across the state. (What BSI initially called “critical capacities” has more recently been renamed “nonprofit sector infrastructure.”) BSI subsequently used the preliminary inventory in discussions with nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the other Philanthropic Divide states in order to build a common glossary of terms and a shared language for talking about nonprofit sector infrastructure.

Assessment of Nonprofit Sector Infrastructure

During 2012, BSI will complete an assessment of the status of nonprofit sector infrastructure in the 10 Divide states, using a framework of critical infrastructure components identified through interviews of key informants in the Divide states. The report will present aggregate and state-by-state findings of the extent and nature of state-level nonprofit sector infrastructure. This research and report, along with its broad national dissemination, will help nonprofits throughout rural America to develop a common language for discussing and analyzing nonprofit sector infrastructure status and needs in their respective states. In turn, these tools will facilitate more readily understood communications to funders and other key audiences regarding the specific infrastructure and capacities needed at the state level for a thriving nonprofit sector.

The preliminary inventory of nonprofit sector infrastructure components includes:

Leadership for nonprofit sector development

This capacity entails having a broad, diverse and representative network of nonprofit leaders and other key stakeholders who are intentionally and inclusively working to address nonprofit sector development needs. Important elements include communication, collaboration and coordination of efforts to promote a stronger nonprofit sector in ways that facilitate exchange, partnerships and synergies for priority statewide initiatives.

Promotion of best practices

This capacity entails having clearly defined statewide sector leadership and an ongoing program of training and education to develop, promote and inculcate “best practices” for nonprofit management, ranging from financial management to ethics. A key premise is national collaboration that recognizes and utilizes important work in this arena that is already taking place

Sustaining a conducive public policy climate

This capacity entails coordinating effective leadership within the nonprofit sector to establish and/or maintain public policies and a political climate that is supportive of the nonprofit sector in general, and is sensitive to tax policies that are essential to nonprofit well-being.

Successful develoment of a statewide nonprofit association

This capacity entails developing an adequately staffed and funded “full-service” state nonprofit association that inclusively serves the breadth and diversity of the state’s nonprofits.

Building effective organization grantmaking programs

This capacity entails establishing and/or expanding one or more significant, permanently endowed grantmaking program(s) whose mission is restricted to funding organizational capacity building and associated organizational development needs, and whose grantmaking serves the full breadth of the state’s nonprofit organizations.

Enhancing consultant resources

This capacity entails building and strengthening the in-state pool of practitioners who provide training, technical assistance and consulting services to assist nonprofits in addressing their organizational development needs.

Promotion of volunteerism

This capacity entails having one or more statewide organizations that provide leadership, resources, infrastructure and training programs to support volunteerism in nonprofits. This requires a strong conceptual and knowledge framework of best practices, state patterns of volunteer involvement in nonprofits, and state demographics regarding nonprofit volunteer involvement.

Building philanthropic support for nonprofit sector infrastructure development

This capacity entails engaging in-state grantmakers to learn about the nonprofit infrastructure development needs of their respective states, and encouraging them to begin moving forward to help fund the development of infrastructure, resources and organizations that will address nonprofit sector capacity needs.

Workforce development for the state nonprofit sector

This capacity focuses on nonprofit workforce development, including offering curricula and degree programs through in-state institutions of higher education and skill training through community-based workforce development programs. Also of concern are opportunities for ongoing professional development and other strategies for enhancing the skills and competencies of those employed by nonprofit organizations.

Promotion of and support for internships

This capacity (arguably a component of workforce development) entails leadership, resources, infrastructure and training programs that support the development of internship opportunities in nonprofit organizations. It includes educating students about nonprofits, promoting the concept of doing internships, and providing education and training for nonprofits to design internship opportunities that stimulate an intern’s interest in future employment in the nonprofit sector.

Research on the state nonprofit sector

This capacity entails a having combination of institutional resources (personnel, funding, program-based focus, etc.) committed to and conducting ongoing research on the state’s nonprofit sector on such topics as: size, breadth, and composition of the sector; workforce characteristics; wage and benefit data; training and technical assistance needs; trends, needs and opportunities.

Research conducted by organizations that comprise the state nonprofit sector

This capacity entails developing and/or strengthening resources for helping nonprofits increase their individual organizational capacities to conduct research. This will enable nonprofits to do more professional and thorough needs assessments, to advocate solution strategies, and document why those strategies are good choices.

Promotion of philanthropy

This capacity entails providing leadership, resources, infrastructure and activities to assist in the development of permanently endowed philanthropic programs that create and strengthen grant making to the needs of under-served populations.

Facilitating technology unilization

This capacity entails training, hands-on assistance, and other resources to help nonprofits understand and effectively utilize computer and telecommunications technology that can increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

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