Donors 10% overhead requirements do more harm than good

In the effort to be a good custodian of their philanthropic funds, some donors impose a cap on overhead expenditure (i.e. indirect costs). This amount is typically somewhere between 10%-20% of total grant value.

These organizations, and much of the public, believe that by limiting such expenditure, they will be getting more value-for-money; that the endeavour will be more moral. This belief is based on a superficial view of how non-profit organizations achieve impact.

While there may be contexts when this rule is appropriate, its blind application can easily harm good organizations.

Justifiably, this method of funding is frequently referred to as the “starvation cycle”.

This article will explain what is meant by the 10% overhead cap, how it can easily do more harm than good, and how donors can use much better measures to judge the merit of their philanthropic investments.

How a lean cost structure can improve financial sustainability

Like most commercial organizations, non-profit organizations and social enterprises should strive to keep their fixed costs as lean as possible. Those that do this properly will be more likely to survive financial shocks and stresses, and create dynamic and sustainable organizations.

While many of these organizations have already achieved this state, this article targets those social entrepreneurs who believe their organizations have become too expensive to maintain on an ongoing basis, or are about to enter a risky and uncertain financial territory.

This article shares some important lessons I’ve learned through assisting these organizations to develop budgets, build financial models and review their financial structure.

Thinking about income generation and profit in a non-profit world

Non-profit organizations and social enterprises that wish to design sustainability strategies need to have clarity around the concepts of income generation and profit, and how to achieve them.

This article aims to debunk some misconceptions around income generation, equity investments, loan finance, and the profits or surpluses that these organizations may generate or receive.

It explains that income and profit emerges from how an organization transacts with its customers. This approach will require organizations to learn new skills, practice new habits and adopt a different mindset. Although embarking on this process may feel intimidating at first, the benefits of being in a stronger strategic and financial position should make it worthwhile.

Cultivating strategic clarity.

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