More good stuff on overhead ratios and “worst charities” – 10-16-13

I’m adding a new category of good stuff, which will be called “impact” for the time being.

Here are some more articles worth attention but I don’t have enough time to comment in a full post. Here are the headlines, with links and a brief comment below:

  • When Good Is Not Good Enough –
  • To Get to the Good, You Gotta’ Dance With the Wicked
  • Why I Think Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses
  • Revisiting America’s worst charities and rethinking overhead: Interview with Kendall Taggart  
  • Investigators say police charity hired felons to raise donations



Stanford Social Innovation Review – When Good Is Not Good Enough – Article challenges us to target the root cause of an issue, not the symptom.  Authors self-disclose their organizations watched symptoms deteriorate while they were increasing their measurements. Refocus on root cause required changing mission, strategy, and staffing.

Stanford Social Innovation Review – To Get to the Good, You Gotta Dance With the Wicked– “Wicked” issues are extremely complex, with multiple causes, many layers, and interrelated issues. Sort of sounds like life in general.

Making progress on one issue can reveal another blocking issue, what the authors call whack-a-mole. They provide this illustration:

One of the reasons people living in poverty have trouble getting jobs, for example, is that they can’t afford childcare. If an intervention helps them obtain affordable childcare, they may then face another challenge of not having transportation to get to a job site. Or maybe their new job raises their income level to the point where they no longer qualify for housing support.

In a very short explanation, my reading over the last few years has shown me:

Life is very complicated.

Take point number 6 in the article: Different stakeholders understand wicked problems differently. Going in another direction, it’s obvious to me that different people have different understandings on whether a specific action step is helpful or hurtful.

Take minimum wage laws. California just increased the minimum wage from $8 now, to $9 next year, and $10 on 1-1-15.  This was done to “help” poor people.

Some people who yearn to make life better for poor people think this boost to the minimum wage will increase unemployment and reduce opportunities for low-skilled workers to get into the job market.

So, does a $10 minimum wage reduce or increase poverty?

Life is very complicated.

And messy.

“Overhead ratio”

Huffington Post – WATCH:  Why I Think Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses – Dan Pallotta again presents the argument that paying a CEO $1M/year who increases revenue from $500M to $1,500M in 8 years is worth it and spending $3M for a SuperBowl add is worthwhile if it raised $12M from new donors.

The comments, mostly from a world view of hate in general and hate of capitalism in particular, are astounding. Best illustrations have the formulation of “overhead = corruption” and “capitalism is cause of poverty.” Shows there is a staggering amount of education to be done.

“Worst Charities”

Idealist Careers – Revisiting America’s worst charities and rethinking overhead: Interview with Kendall Taggart – Interview with one of the reporters on the “worst charities” articles. Contains hints on where future reporting may go. Biggest news is there are more reports on the way.

Tampa Bay Times – Investigators say police charity hired felons to raise donations – Police arrest four managers of phone banks at the #20 charity on the America’s Worst Charities list. Police allege the four arrestees knowingly hired felons to make solicitation calls. Not only is that a bad idea in concept, it is apparently illegal under Florida law.

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