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February 5, 2020; NYN Media

NPQ has run articles for years on what gets included in “full cost” funding—here, you can read Claire Knowlton as she goes over the various categories of these costs of doing business. Particularly for organizations that rely upon government funding, infrastructure improvements or replacements can be put off as other needs present themselves as more urgent.

To address this, in 2015, nonprofits in New York helped establish the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program, providing grants to organizations with capital needs like technological upgrades, facilities expansion, and renovations for accessibility. Since then, the state has provided $120 million, allowing the fund, which is stewarded by the Dormitory Association of the State of New York, to award 269 grants, covering about half of the number of groups applying.

Now, say advocates, it is time to replenish the communal pot. This time, though, they are pushing to up the amount in the pool by requesting $100 million from this year’s budget.

“Because nonprofits operate on a really tight budget, it’s hard to put money aside for a rainy-day fund,” says Michelle Jackson, acting executive director of the Human Services Council. “It’s also very hard to fundraise for things like a new roof or generator because people want to donate money to programs, and not the physical infrastructure.”

We don’t know about that. It is our impression that some donors love to buy things—vans, a ramp, a roof, sprinkler upgrades, furniture for a family in shelter—but mounting a campaign can often seem prohibitively daunting on top of day-to-day tasks. This can lead to decaying infrastructure, unnecessary risk, and inefficiencies. In New York, where any number of undercapitalized contractors are doing business with the state, such a fund makes good sense, and it should be generously funded to ensure access.

Do you have such a fund in your own locality? We’d love to hear about how it functions and whether regular government allocations are made to it.—Ruth McCambridge

Correction: This article has been altered from its initial form to correct a miscalculated figure. NPQ regrets the error.