First, I want to a moment to say thank you. Thank you to the 2,000+ people who have pledged to end the overhead myth, thank you to everyone who has shared the news of the Overhead Myth campaign, launched in partnership with BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator, and thank YOU for reading this and learning more about the issue of nonprofit overhead expenses. You are the ones who are really moving the needle on this effort, and we’re thrilled that this campaign resonates with you.
We’ve talked a lot about what nonprofits shouldn’t focus on – overhead – and we certainly attempted to describe what they should focus on instead. In fact, our entire Money for Good II initiative was designed to inform nonprofits about how to better collect and communicate their impact data. However, it’s time that we dig deeper into three concrete things nonprofits should do today to move past overhead once and for all:
Giving Donors Better Alternatives to Overhead
1. GuideStar Exchange
It’s simple: give us your information and we will share it with the 10 million annual visitors we get to www.guidestar.org and millions more through the work of our amazing clients and partners. Our mechanism to do so is our GuideStar Exchange program, which is the only program of its kind that encourages nonprofit transparency on a national scale and allows nonprofits to supplement the public information that is available from the IRS. It is designed to encourage transparency, and it can help nonprofits get past their financials and administrative expenses and focus on outcomes once and for all.
We just overhauled the GuideStar Exchange to align with what we learned from Money for Good II: individual donors, institutional funders, and financial planners want basic information (mission statement, program information, key employees, etc), financial information, and impact/effectiveness information about your nonprofit.
One of the biggest improvements to this program is the integration of Charting Impact with the GuideStar Exchange. GuideStar embraces the 5 standardized questions for the sector that allow a nonprofit to report on their organizational impact to date. These 5 questions were crafted (with input from major institutional funders) so that once you’ve answered these questions once, you will have a head start on many other grant applications saving you and your staff precious time and effort.
Once you give us your information, we in turn give you a gold, silver, or bronze participation logo—a symbol of transparency in the sector—and a host of other benefits. All in all, the GuideStar Exchange is free, it’s easy to get started, and it’s truly powerful.
2. Stakeholder Reviews
GreatNonprofits provides a way for your non-paid stakeholders – your board members, volunteers, interns, etc. – to review your nonprofit, similar to Amazon or Yelp reviews. Their reviews help to tell your nonprofit’s story and explain your impact on a human scale. Using the Great Nonprofits platform, which the public will view through your GuideStar nonprofit report, you can solicit these reviews and push them out when you get glowing feedback. Again, it’s free, and it’s easy to do – we even have a tool kit to get you started. Remember – the more donors and funders know, the more they give!
If your nonprofit has received the distinction from Philanthropedia as an expert-recommended high-impact nonprofit you should be sharing this recognition with your community! Philanthropedia has a turn-key tool kit that you can use to spread the word and help impact-oriented donors and funders find you more easily. Contact Jasmine Marrow (firstname.lastname@example.org) for access to this tool kit.
I’d love to hear about how you plan to move past the overhead ratio! Leave your comment below.
Lindsay J.K. Nichols is the communications director of GuideStar, building on the organization’s strong brand to sustain awareness of its mission through relationships with key audiences. Lindsay came to GuideStar with a deep consulting background with clients such as Best Buy, Heineken, National Geographic Education Foundation, Bracewell & Giuliani, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pre-K for All DC, School-Based Health Alliance, the Land Trust Alliance, RugMark, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Nursing Research, and others. She began her career at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), where she handled media efforts for the ASCE/WTC report on the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Lindsay earned a bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting Communications and Women’s Studies from the State University of New York at Oswego. The above can also be found on the GuideStar Blog: http://trust.guidestar.org/2013/07/25/three-important-alternatives-to-overhead/.