Non-Profit Leadership: How to Maneuver The Essential Changes of Organizational Infrastructure

Team consultation and analysis by paperwork.

Our non-profit organizations are usually programmatically driven. We tend to emphasize what our programs are achieving but often the infrastructure to support those programs is inadequate and struggles to keep up. This is particularly true when the programs are growing.  Throughout our history at Lakeside, we have had different phases of growth where we went through changes or a level of growth and realized that we did not have enough support for that growth by our administrative staff.

For those aspects of the organizations that provide indirect services such as IT, human resources, financial, custodial, and maintenance we often find those services struggle to keep up when there are significant changes in the organization’s primary programs. For instance, during COVID-19 major adjustments had to be made in the technology aspects for our schools and our training which became virtual. This was a major undertaking which required a complete overhaul of the ways we utilized technology.

Also in this post-COVID world regional public schools were overwhelmed with many mental health needs for their students and asked that we triple our in-school counseling programs for both their staff and students. This required that we hire approximately 80 new staff over two years. This taxed our HR department, recruitment, IT, and particularly healthcare support to the point of being overwhelmed. It took some time to recover and the inability to maintain this sudden and rapid growth caused significant conflict. Also due to post-COVID stress we have the need to double our training capacity for this coming year. We had prepared for this level of growth, but it is still taxing the administration of our training staff and programs.

I raise all of this to express how non-profits need to give special attention to their support staff in training, support, needs evaluation, and adequate staffing, particularly when there are rapid changes and growth. We also need to take a trauma-informed approach to help them regulate their own stressors due to the increased demands to their workload, structure and other changes that are required due to growth, pandemics or other adversities.

As we assist with organizations that are undergoing significant stress, we recognize that there needs to be significant training and support for indirect services staff. It is why we have chosen to manage Dr. Sandra Bloom’s PRESENCE certification program for organizations. We recognize that to provide training for the clinical staff and/or direct services staff and not the leadership and indirect services staff sets up an organization for failure. Our infrastructure staff which holds the core of the organization together is so significant to the success of the functioning programs. 

Giving attention to the infrastructure of an organization is an essential part of effective non-profit leadership. Sometimes it can feel like this support is non-essential. However, I believe that the success of our programs and staff is only as effective as our administration is adequate to meet their needs. This is the essential nature a of well-conceived and implemented non-profit infrastructure.

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