Nonprofits Need a Fair Set of Rules

Nonprofits Need a Fair Set of Rules
10 years, 7 months ago 1
Posted in: Blog

The kids love reading time at Wordplay, an after-school literacy and creative writing venture in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood.  They love the fun environment, including the pillow-laden “reading tubs,” shown here.

Start-up nonprofits such as Wordplay have little problem convincing donors of the importance of reading and writing programs for children.  Donors get that their contributions may pay for books.  But bathtubs?  As a volunteer and board member with Wordplay, I see the challenge every day.  Investment, infrastructure and capacity building are needed to build programs.  But donors look for programs first and don’t think much about the salaries, light bills and other costs a start-up nonprofit needs to incur to get programs started and sustained.

In a previous post, Charitable words was introduced with this.

As stated then, our goal is to help nonprofits – and other common community causes – tell their stories clearly, concisely and convincingly.

Clear and concise you probably get. But what’s this convincingly thing?  It means nonprofits need to tell their stories with pride and confidence. Too often, nonprofits are timid in asking for money to support good causes. We are apologetic in explaining the “overhead” necessary to support and build programs.

That needs to change. In my role as an advisor to a new national leadership organization, The Charity Defense Council, I am blessed to work with Dan Pallotta. Pallotta is well known in the nonprofit world as the author of  “Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential,” which the Stanford Social Innovation Review said, “deserves to become the nonprofit sector’s new manifesto.”

His latest book,  “Charity Case,” outlines The Charity Defense Council’s misson. It’s big. It’s bold.  It should be a game changer in the nonprofit world. Charitable Words will be here to do we can – with friends, with you — in small ways to advance understanding of that double standard nonprofits face in competing for attention, support and dollars. It’s an unbalanced scorecard. It’s not fair. It’s just wrong.

Please take a moment to poke around the links to Pallotta’s and The Charity Defense Council’s web sites.  I’m not selling anything here but you’ll find his blog, links to his books and other resources.

There are even t-shirts that proclaim “I’m Overhead,” proudly proclaiming  no need to apologize for investing in good ideas and worthy causes. We need to view costs to build humanitarian programs as “capacity building” investments, not just overhead vs. direct-to-program benefits, which may have band-aid benefits but short-term outcomes.

Here’s a way to think about it: Think Soup Kitchen A, which boasts that 80% goes to programs serving rancid soup a few hours a day. Then there’s Soup Kitchen B, which invests in itself with 65% going to programs that include after-school enrichment, nutritional education and food service training. Which one should get your support? With the overhead myth hanging so heavily over its head, it can’t catch a break.

I ask you to think a bit about the overhead myth that way. Read more about The Charity Defense Council’s mission. Work with us to clearly, concisely, convincingly tell your stories. And, please, spread the word. The Charitable Words, if you will.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby feather

One Response

  1. […] This recent Charitable Words post explored the unfair scorecard hindering gutsy nonprofit start-ups and innovative ideas. My work with the Charity Defense Council is working to balance that playing field. I won’t repeat my rant here. But I encourage you to check out the Council’s web site to read more. […]