Innovation, beyond a doubt, represents a key ingredient for solving our community’s most entrenched challenges. Whether you’re tackling affordability, education, health care, foster care, or any other issue, we need fresh approaches to help us break new ground. We nonprofiteers are committed, resourceful, hardworking and smart. But one of the things Mission Capital has seen hinder progress is a cycle of starvation.
The overhead myth is a huge contributing factor to the cycle of starvation. The myth is the idea that if a nonprofit isn’t spending at least 80% of its revenue on programs, it must be wasteful and ineffective. In reality, there are better ways to measure a nonprofit’s impact than overhead. The myth is very effective, though, at starving nonprofits. In order to keep overhead expenses under 20%, many nonprofits starve their administration, effectively building a house on a foundation of sand.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You get the idea.
How can anyone, even extremely talented people, innovate in an environment like that? How can we attract and retain the talent needed to spark and sustain innovation? How can administrative staff provide the support staff what they need to innovate when their own plates are overflowing just trying to stay on top of routine tasks? Scarce resources drive risk aversion, the complete opposite of innovation.
Although a surprise gift of $10,000 wouldn’t hurt, you can begin breaking the starvation cycle without waiting for a miracle. Chances are your nonprofit has some low hanging fruit – areas where a strategic investment will pay for itself within a year or less.
Improvements like these are really necessities more than luxuries. When done right, they’ll not just pay for themselves, but they’ll also provide a boost in morale and help your staff feel more valued. Over the course of a year, they could even bring your overhead costs down! Most importantly, your increased productivity and efficiency will free up time for your staff to invest in innovation and creating new approaches to old problems. Whether your next stage of innovation means improving your programs, learning how to earn income from a program you already have, or using data better to demonstrate your impact, you’ll be moving the needle.
Let’s face it: data and evaluation can be a burden. Without proper planning and structure, it can quickly become overwhelming.
If you want to make your financial reports come alive, especially for people who don’t enjoy numbers, a dashboard should do the trick.
As a nonprofit leader, there’s perhaps never been a better time for you to talk frankly about what your organization really needs to produce true results over time.
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