It’s Just a Numbers Game

The ALSA’s Bucket challenge has taken the internet and country by storm and has become one of the most successful online fundraising campaigns to date. When an organization has huge success like this there comes more scrutiny. Which there should be; after finding out that some organizations allocated more funds to branding than projects or research, all non-profits need to rise up to the cause and be responsible how donations are used.

Recently I read an article discussing how the ALSA is “only using 34% of funds for research”. The idea of an organization using a third of their funding for programs would be extremely disappointing. However, it took me approximately 30 seconds to find out that, actually, other funds are allocated to education and various programs, and that their administrative costs are only .24 out of every dollar. For an organization like the ALSA, that is very reasonable.

All non-profits try to maximize donations, but without the oil the wheels don’t turn. If no one is paid within a non-profit, the work doesn’t get done. If ink isn’t bought, flyers and materials aren’t printed for the education program. The administrative costs may not be pretty or make you feel better, but they are crucial for the continuation and furthering of the mission. I’ve been told by several donors that they don’t want their donation to cover our shipping and logistics. This is fine, because shipping is completely free to us, but if we didn’t have the logistical part of our programs financed, we wouldn’t be able to operate without fundraising for shipping costs. Sometimes your donation won’t go to a meal, a book, or a vaccination. However, without the money to the operational or logistical needs, those materials wouldn’t get to where they need to, and those programs would at worst not exist, and at best be nowhere near as impactful as they could be.

In a perfect world, 100% of all donations all of the time would go directly to constituents. Organizations like the Red Cross or UNICEF can show these numbers because of the plethora of large and small donations that keep constantly pouring in. Medium or small-sized organizations, especially those who work with specific populations like ALSA don’t get that luxury. People who don’t work within the non-profit sector might think that 24% of funding going towards administrative costs may be high.  The way that materials or salary get allocated within a budget greatly impacts what is technically called administrative.

Administrative costs will always exist, and it isn’t fair to chastise and dismiss an organization who keeps their administrative costs to under 30%. Should the ALSA work to make that number smaller? Of course, as should all of us who work in the non-profit sector, but don’t expect every organization to have 99-100% of donations go directly to programs.

Numbers can be easily manipulated, and numbers most certainly can lie. Before you donate, I encourage you to research how an organization uses it’s funds. A critical eye is important , but criticizing without understanding is dangerous.

How To: Deal With Rejection

On Sunday I talked about funding and how we define success as a sector. What about rejection? Funding through sponsors, donors, or grant makers can be very difficult to acquire; getting a person to volunteer their time and talent is also extremely difficult. You are going to hear no many more times than yes, whether you are asking for people, money, or resources. People are busy, and foundations receive a plethora of applications.

No one wants to be turned down, whether it be a partnership, sponsorship or funding opportunity. Rejection is unfortunately a huge part of non-profit life. There are many reasons why organizations and people might say no, but it is important to know to deal with and react to rejection.

Don’t take it personally.

I know this is easier said than done. When you work hard on a grant, program, or event, you want everyone to get on board and be as passionate about it as you are. When organizations or people say no, it has very little to do with you as a person. Having someone say no to a proposal does not mean they are against you, your organization, or its mission. There are many deserving groups worthy of time and talent, and not enough resources.

Try to get the reason for the rejection. If a person can’t make it to an event because of a prior engagement, make sure they stay on the list for the next one. Funders can be extremely busy, but it never hurts to ask for feedback on your grant proposal. Maybe there were just too many applicants and not enough money to go around. Maybe you forgot to include some crucial information. Maybe it’s just subjective criticism. Turn the rejection into a learning opportunity, and never burn bridges. Just because they said no today, doesn’t mean they’ll say no next month or next grant cycle.

Ask away… and good luck!