Tuesday, August 1

I couldn't disagree more

It's easy to take potshots at organizations that appear to spend a high percentage of fundraising revenue on overhead. Self proclaimed "watch dogs" are always whipping readers into a frenzy - much like politicians railing against government waste and taxes. As I've said before, this viewpoint is short-sighted and dangerous. The issue is much more complex.

1. Organizations use different cost allocation strategies to determine what is even considered a fundraising expense. One organization may say that the Executive Director spends 10% of her time asking people for money, so 10% of her salary should be fundraising expense. Others may not. Some may allocate half the cost of a fundraising letter to communication. Others may not.

2. Why is money spent on things other than fundraising or overhead considered more efficient? I mean, if these "watch dogs" want to really make people distrust nonprofit organizations, they should be evaluating staff productivity and office supply usage, right?

3. Most fundraisers are smart people who worry about ROI and cash flow constantly. To suggest that fundraisers laugh off criticism by saying "it costs money to make money" under estimates the strategic decisions that go on every day to make as much money for the organization in as efficient a manner as possible. Viewing a single event in isolation ignores the fact that many organizations may lose money on new donor acquisition in order to recoup that loss on subsequent renewals and follow-up solicitations.

I am all in favor of transparency. And yes, some nonprofits are not worth giving to because they waste money. But unless these "watch dogs" can dig into organization-wide financials to understand the strategic objectives of specific programs in context of broader fundraising goals... they should keep their cookie cutter metrics to themselves.

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