Non-profit overhead

Skeptical non-donors often point to the amount a charity spends on non-direct spending as a reason to hesitate in contributing. It’s easy to imagine that a cause that spends 90% of what it raises on direct action (not HQ, not salaries, not fundraising) is better than one that spends 80%.

We say we care about overhead, but what we really care about is impact, or status, or momentum. What we measure isn’t a simple percentage, it’s a lot deeper than that.

Waste isn’t a good thing. Of course not. But leaving aside the football teams and the jets at some colleges, those high salaries at some non-profits might just be buying insights and effort that you can’t get any other way. And those leaders might be bringing strategic insights and efficiencies to their cause that a well-meaning bootstrapper just can’t deliver.

Everywhere else in our lives, we happily invest in the best solution to our problem. Whether it’s surgery, vegetables or a designer, we seek to invest in expertise and resources that not only fit our budget but get the job done.

If a problem is worth solving, it’s worth engaging with the right people to solve it with urgency, isn’t it?