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Monday, May 29, 2017

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The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle
Ann Goggins Gregory & Don Howard

September, 2009

A vicious cycle is leaving nonprofits so hungry for decent infrastructure that they can barely function as organizations—let alone serve their beneficiaries. The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a nonprofit costs, and results in nonprofits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs. To break the nonprofit starvation cycle, funders must take the lead.

Organizations that build robust infrastructure—which includes sturdy information technology systems, financial systems, skills training, fundraising processes, and other essential overhead—are more likely to succeed than those that do not. This is not news, and nonprofits are no exception to the rule.

Yet it is also not news that most nonprofits do not spend enough money on overhead. In our consulting work at the Bridgespan Group, we frequently find that our clients agree with the idea of improving infrastructure and augmenting their management capacity, yet they are loath to actually make these changes because they do not want to increase their overhead spending. But underfunding overhead can have disastrous effects, finds the Nonprofit Overhead Cost Study, a five year research project conducted by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

To read more of this article at Stanford Social Innovation review, click here.

 



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