I’m personally and professionally fascinated by analytics and the idea of return on investment (ROI). I spend my working days in Google Analytics, Facebook and YouTube Insights, e-newsletter stats and more.
When it comes to my personal giving to non-profits, I’m just as intrigued by numbers. I tend to “invest” my thoughts, energy, time and finances quite vertically: I drive deeply down into issues and give there, rather than here and there to many causes.
In doing this, I come across terms like effectiveness, efficiency and overhead, which are very often cited by non-profits as reasons to believe an organization is “good.” This is, of course, in addition to (and sometimes an after-thought to!) the actual impact an organization has.
But these numbers have always seemed awkward to me. Afterall, I don’t think for-profit companies or political campaigns cite low overhead as a reason I should invest or give. When for-profit companies talk about effectiveness and efficiency, I know intuitively that’s about outsourcing, mechanization, downsizing…essentially, people losing their jobs, which is further code for larger profits for shareholders and executives.
As you can imagine then, I was very inspired by Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong, which you can watch below. If you work in – or donate to – the non-profit sector, this 19 minute video will change your whole mindset.
After reading and watching all of the material from Pallotta I could get my hands on, I made an impulse buy in his online store. Not quite sure what to do with his “I’m Overhead” t-shirt once I got it, I finally realized the perfect use: my Halloween costume.
You got it: the truly scary thing this Halloween is realizing that overhead is NOT the enemy. It’s frightening to think we HAVE to support the non-profits that essentially float our capitalist economic system. It’s terrifying to come to terms with the fact that we FORCE suppressed wages on non-profit employees and executives while business executives, actors, entertainers and athletes make MILLIONS of dollars per year.
So I’ve got a Halloween costume. And I hope you now have cause to pause the next time you use “overhead” to judge the effectiveness of a non-profit. From Pallotta: “Ask about the scale of their dreams…How they measure their progress toward those dreams. And what resources they need to make them come true, regardless of what the overhead is. Who cares what the overhead is, if these problems are actually getting solved.”
What do you think about Pallotta’s TED Talk?
And how do you determine whether to give to an organization or cause?