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The Overhead Myth meets your Overhead Reality

Like more than 3,000 of you, and countless others who nodded their heads in vehement agreement, I signed the Overhead Myth petition 18 months ago. We are united in our belief that it is short-sided to draw conclusions about our work when watchdog groups, funders, and donors simply divide our expenses by our revenue to assess our impact. For its part, the Myth perfectly framed what we have all thought – and gave it a megaphone.

Now, however, having had the Myth’s leaders put the wind at our backs, reinvigorating our determination to make our corner of the world better, we need to extend this movement to do more than unify beliefs, but unify resources. We need to bring together co-existing parts of our sector to address your Overhead Reality.

While much of our economy has experienced a slow and gradual recovery from the “Great Recession,” most of the nonprofits have not. At the end of last year, almost 80 percent of nonprofits reported an increased demand for their services, yet 56 percent could not meet that demand due to a lack of resources. What’s more, with the steady reduction—and even elimination—of public funding for an increasing number of nonprofits nationwide, agencies must do far more with less – but how?

For our part, we must better engage the very donors we hope will embrace the premise of the Myth. However, what are we doing to demonstrate effective stewardship of their gifts to create and sustain impact?

Donor retention is critical, and leaders like Jay Love and Roger Craver are using data to prove it; right-setting expectations is essential, and Dan Polletta is articulating it; understanding problems within the fundraising profession is paramount, and the Underdeveloped Report quantified it; and transparency is critical, and Guidestar has created the tools to scale it.

Like them, though, we know we have to do better. It’s time to move from knowing to doing.

To begin to help nonprofits have their best chance for success, we have teamed up with Microsoft, Intuit, and Salesforce to create the Fundraising Readiness Project – and it’s free.

An ambitious initiative, no doubt, the Fundraising Readiness Project provides direct fundraising assistance for nonprofits struggling to sustain or expand services in their communities. Its objective is to help increase and diversify revenue without increasing operating expenses.

The Project uses a simple technology to connect nonprofits and their fundraising data—in any form— to a fundraising expert selected from matches drawn from a network of more than 10,000 consultants nationwide. Once paired, a coaching and professional development relationship begins, where the two virtually meet twice a month to create a 12-month fundraising plan, monitor ongoing progress, and build all of the assets required to reach (and even exceed) revenue goals.

Organizations that have been participating in the Midwest over the last year report, on average, as much as a 61 percent increase contributed revenue – and from new and diversified sources. As a result, and since June 2014, more than 1,000 nonprofits have signed up to get help.

The Project is now being launched nationally to ensure that nonprofits can maximize their calendar year-end fundraising, beginning with the #GivingTuesday planning kit.

When we work together, we don’t just do better, we do best.


2c45978Brian Lauterbach, CFRE
Over the last eighteen years, Brian has worked with more than 100 nonprofit organizations throughout the US to raise a combined total of nearly $400 million from more than 3 million people. In 2012, he founded to help new, small- and mid-sized nonprofit organizations, where hiring a professional fundraiser to stabilize or grow revenue is not a financial reality.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice