Giving Compass' Take:
- Vu Le explains why the trend of nonprofits taking pride in keeping overhead at ludicrously low levels is harmful to the entire sector.
- The point here is that obsession with scarcity and sacrifice can often hold organizations back, reducing the quality of work and setting up unrealistic expectations.
- Read more about why the overhead myth still persists among donors.
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The ancient, rickety chair held together with duct tape [at the office] is not just a funny experience to bond over, it’s a point of pride for many of us. As Bonnah, Chief Social Entrepreneur of FuseSocial, said, “It seems to be a badge of honor for some people.” But this scarcity and martyrdom complex is damaging to the nonprofit sector.
And this is a problem, y’all. Many of us in this sector take pride in our ability to accomplish amazing things for our community while having some of the fewest and lowest-quality resources. We also take pride in not “wasting” funding, keeping our “overhead” low, and showing donors and funders that we are “responsible” stewards of the work. That’s why we steal so many pens during conferences, and why we say things like, “We are 100% volunteer-run” and “95 cents of every dollar goes to directly to our clients!”
It often goes further than that. Yesterday, I learned of a community leader who founded an organization, used it to help the community over the span of 25 years, never took a salary, and now nearing the end of his life has nothing saved in retirement funds.
Stop it! Stop it, all right?! We need to get out of this scarcity and martyrdom complex. It is no-good, very bad.
Here are several reasons why:
- It creates a chain reaction of crappiness.
- It prevents us from doing our work.
- It perpetuates uninformed expectations from society.
- It causes unfair comparisons among nonprofits.
- It lowers people’s respect for our orgs and our profession.
- It aggravates health problems.
- It wastes a lot of time.
Read the full article about getting over the scarcity mindset in nonprofits by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.