On March 12, 2013, nonprofits, funders, and advisors who belong to Donors Forum convened to discuss how to advance the conversation and better communicate the true effectiveness and impact of nonprofit work. If you missed the convening, here are some highlights from the keynote speakers and presenters.
Denis Pierce, President, Pierce Family Foundation, introduced the convening topic and why the conversation about nonprofit overhead is essential:
Ann Goggins Gregory, Senior Director, Knowledge, The Bridgespan Group: "In the nonprofit starvation cycle, where we anchor on the wrong thing-- where funders have unrealistic expectations, where nonprofits feel pressure to conform to those expectations and where, as a sector, we chronically underinvest in and fail to understand the true costs of delivering outcomes."
Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund: "We believe we're in a moment in which fundamental adaptation at the organizational and systems level is imperative and in that moment we're going to have to get over our old ideas. We know that as a starting point this is going to take the kind of open and honest conversation you're having here today."
Liz Sode,VP & ED of Strategic Services, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights discussed the making of the video, If We Want Our Funding to Change the World: " The challenge was in finding a way to communicate this complex, dense issue and create something that would move people to discussion and move people to action. Rather than thinking about the issue in terms of a metric of administrative overhead expense, we tried to move the conversation to a more important metric about the true effectiveness and impact of nonprofit work."
Unmi Song, Executive Director, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation: "As we've discussed nonprofit overhead is not a measure of effectiveness and it's really not a measure of efficiency. We need to start talking about how to allocate costs in a meaningful way, in a way that provides insight into the efficiency of programs, the effectiveness of scarce resources, and in a way that helps us understand what kind of outcomes we're getting from society's investments."
David McConnell, Chief Financial Officer, One Hope United: "Overhead is necessary, sometimes serving to reduce other costs, and enhances the effectiveness of the entire operation, too often funders focus on overhead because it's easier to measure than the real impact of what we do as an organization, the government needs to understand our issues too."
Finally, convening participants shared some of the thoughts that surfaced during table discussions, their prompts from the role-playing activity, and suggested action steps for identifying real costs and how to increase communication between nonprofits and funders.