Brief A Guide to Strengthening the National Social Sector Infrastructure
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Objectives and Action Steps
Laura Tomasko, Faith Mitchell, Benjamin Soskis, Hannah Martin, Alan Abramson, Ana Marie Argilagos, Vanessa Daniel, James D. Gibbons, Rahsaan Harris, Deth Im, Sarah Kastelic, Kathy Ko Chin, Hanh Le, Larry McGill, Jon Pratt, Chera Reid, Pier Rogers, Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury
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In this guide coauthored by the Urban/GMU research team and members of this study’s advisory committee, we offer overarching objectives and action steps for strengthening the national social sector infrastructure, which we define as the support system that helps the social sector thrive. The action steps are designed for three audiences: infrastructure providers, infrastructure funders, and infrastructure users. We hope the action steps will help these audiences in their efforts to strengthen the infrastructure.

Why this matters

In the United States, the social sector consists of private organizations, groups, and individuals acting to advance social missions as their primary purpose. A robust support system—the social sector infrastructure—can help the social sector meet its full potential. By taking the action steps in this guide, infrastructure providers, infrastructure funders, and infrastructure users can enable the social sector infrastructure to amplify the social sector’s impact.

Key takeaways

We offer these eight objectives and corresponding action steps for infrastructure providers, funders, and users that fall under two goals:

  1. Goal 1: Make it easier to find high-quality social sector infrastructure services.
  • Objective 1: Develop and disseminate clear narratives that communicate the importance of infrastructure to current and potential infrastructure funders and users.
  • Objective 2: Offer current and potential infrastructure funders, providers, and users regular opportunities to learn about the full scope of the social sector infrastructure.
  • Objective 3: Create tools that provide feedback on infrastructure services by adapting current assessment models to the social sector infrastructure or initiating efforts to design new feedback systems.
  1. Goal 2: Implement policies and practices that help infrastructure providers develop sustainable financial models and high-quality services.
  • Objective 4: Increase revenue sources for infrastructure providers to improve their financial security and the accessibility of infrastructure services for everyone in the social sector.
  • Objective 5: Ensure infrastructure providers have adequate financial resources, have the flexibility to spend those resources to meet the needs of infrastructure users, and do not face undue reporting and other burdens from the funding they receive.
  • Objective 6: Adopt inclusive practices that ensure infrastructure providers offer services that meet the needs of all social sector organizations, especially those led by and serving people of color and other marginalized communities.
  • Objective 7: Strengthen technology for national infrastructure providers and users to improve the accessibility and security of infrastructure services that rely on technology.
  • Objective 8: Prioritize the well-being of infrastructure providers and users through practices and services and by recognizing, addressing, and preventing burnout and other impediments to well-being.

Further reading

To learn how we developed our definitions of the social sector and its infrastructure, please read our report, The Social Sector Infrastructure: Defining and Understanding the Concept.

To read our definitions, please see our social sector infrastructure infographic.

To explore our definitions further and see examples of infrastructure providers and activities, please visit our feature, Exploring the Social Sector Infrastructure.

To learn about the state of the national social sector infrastructure and what it needs for the future, please read our report, The State and Future of the National Social Sector infrastructure.

To dive deeper into the financing of the national social sector infrastructure, please read our report, An Overview of the Financing of National Social Sector Infrastructure Providers.

This publication is part of a larger project on the social sector infrastructure.

Research Areas Nonprofits and philanthropy
Tags Charitable giving Data and technology capacity of nonprofits Foundations and philanthropy Impact investing Nonprofit data and statistics Nonprofit sector trends Race and equity in grantmaking Race, gender, class, and ethnicity Racial and ethnic disparities Social sector infrastructure Volunteering
Policy Centers Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy
Research Methods Data analysis Data collection Qualitative data analysis Quantitative data analysis