Why Does Infrastructure Matter?

Collage of Peace Tiles, courtesy CommunityGrows, a Tides project

Collage of tiles from the Peace Wall, courtesy CommunityGrows, a Tides project

I am excited to announce the launch of What's Possible: the Tides Blog – written by and for people interested in creating strong infrastructure for the social change sector. In this sector, what we do (the mission work that gets us up every morning for a vision of a just and equitable world) is interwoven with how we do it (the organizations we create to implement our vision). If we don’t pay attention to the infrastructure we are putting in place to support the work necessary to implement our visions, the lack of strong organizational practices and efforts will ultimately cause us distraction from our work, at best, and at worse, result in the dissolution of the very organizations we have created to do the work.

I believe that efficient operational infrastructure, like that provided by Tides, is a critical part of facilitating social innovation and making the world a better place. Good nonprofit infrastructure provides a strong foundation on which to build solid programmatic work. Increasing efficiencies in our sector and thus raising the capacity of others to improve society is what Tides is all about. Our unique structures and solutions help people translate their ideas into action.

Tides provides its fiscally sponsored projects with all of the financial, human resources, and governance infrastructure of a well-managed nonprofit, allowing activists and social entrepreneurs to focus their attention on the content and mission of their work, not the administrative and regulatory details. For example, Tides helps set up infrastructure for a major movement: StopGlobalWarming.org, the virtual march of 1.3 million people demanding that our leaders cap carbon emissions. It also set up operations for National Lab Day, a time-limited endeavor that needed to get off the ground within weeks.

Efficiency, cost savings, and eliminating redundancies also come with sharing services. Nonprofits with small budgets that have difficulty accessing standard administrative resources collaborate with others to develop shared services such as administration and IT services as well as office space. Tides not only researches and promotes how to do it, the Tides organizations themselves serve as a model for operating in this manner.

Finally, efficient philanthropy has a greater impact. Raising funds for a cause needn't involve the hassle of establishing and managing a nonprofit. Rather, local community foundations or grantmaking intermediaries like Tides can create a donor advised fund or a collective giving vehicle for the cause. Tides also provides infrastructure for institutional donors, and consulting services.

For those of you who receive Tidings, our email newsletter, you'll notice that the articles are now posted here on our blog. I invite you to come back to see more of our thoughts about nonprofit infrastructure, share the blog with your friends, and subscribe to the RSS feed. The Tides community will be posting articles regularly and we hope you will read and comment.

Ellen Friedman is Executive Vice President of Tides.

8 Responses to “Why Does Infrastructure Matter?”

  1. Welcome to blog-land, Tides! Looking forward to following along.

    Lucy Bernholz

  2. Jim Edlin says:

    FABULOUS new blog Tideistas. Very happy to see this and looking forward to lots of good posts. Bravo.

  3. Welcome to blogging! I look forward to following along!

  4. [...] for their work in fiscal sponsorship – launched their first blog recently with a post titled “Why Does Infrastructure Matter?” Ellen Friedman, the Tides Executive VP, writes:“If we don’t pay attention to the infrastructure [...]

  5. Glad to see you open for interaction and ideas on Infrastructure and top down methods we might use for improving society.
    Some ideas below on effective and respectful Industry Shifting.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2373072738&ref=mf&gid=47226199245

  6. Just found you and I'm excited to follow along! I totally concur with your work. I am hosting free training webinars for nonprofit organizations because I truly believe that we must strengthen the field, and shore up our infrastructure. http://robertsassociates.blogspot.com/2010/02/free-training-resources-for-nonprofits.html
    Thank you for your work!
    Carrie

  7. Lynda Arakelian says:

    Glad to see Tides has joined the blogosphere! As part of infrastructure, social change organizations should have a system in place to help guide their decision-making toward achieving sustainability goals, also known as the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The Natural Step Network is a non-profit organization that promotes a framework for doing so that can be adopted by any organization or company. I highly recommend their trainings, both online and in-person: http://www.naturalstepusa.org/sustainability-courses/

  8. Amy Kincaid says:

    Really glad to have Tides in this online dialogue space. Looking forward to great ideas, support, infrastructure geeky exchanges for social change!

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