Good stuff for the nonprofit world – 5/8

A few articles on the nonprofit sector.

  • Do huge staffing levels in huge foundations have any impact on outcomes?
  • The widespread attitude towards ‘overhead’ that charities have to deal with.
  • How disaster reporting goes sour and what good outcome questions might look like in disaster relief.
  • Charities can now get dot-NGO and dot-ONG addresses.

Why do I mention the first two articles? They show the entire nonprofit world has a long way to go on outcome measures. I’m not sure there is even a tidbit of agreement on the right questions to ask, let alone measuring answers.

5/7 – David Callahan at Inside Philanthropy – Top Philanthropoids Are Paid Over $600 Million a Year. Is That Too Much? – Mr. Callahan is continuing his discussion I’ve mentioned here and here wondering if the humongous staffing levels at the gargantuan foundations makes any difference in the impact of those foundations.

Salaries for the 10 largest grant making foundations are $538.8M, based on the specific data listed in the article. Grants from those 10 are $6,023M. (Difference between the headline $607M and the $539M in the table is due to substituting one foundation for another, I think.)

He points out those are not the only costs in G&A. Total G&A is $1,700M.

Salaries alone are 8.9% of grants paid.

His question: would the impact of those foundations increase or decrease if half of the salaries were cut and moved into grants? I think his answer would be that nobody on the planet has any idea of the answer.

The $1.7B of “overhead” is 22% of the costs he mentions ($6B grant + $1.7B G&A).

Here’s my question: I wonder if the foundations allow their grant recipients a 22% G&A charge to the grants received?

I don’t move in the humongous philanthropy world and neither do the NPOs I work with. I learn of that world by my reading. I think the core of his concern from the megadollar end of the charity world is here:

My problem is with how these big foundations do business, hewing to a top-heavy model from an industrial era where nobody thought twice about centralizing authority in lumbering bureaucracies. And, of course, I’m hardly alone in resenting the power that foundations have aggregated to themselves by muscling up with lots of staff and exercising control over nonprofits through an endless trickle of program grants that keep NGOs in a permanent state of semi-starved obeisance.

(Translate permanent state of semi-starved as starvation cycle.)

(From Merriam-Webster, obeisance:

1.a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission

2.acknowledgment of another’s superiority or importance.)

4/28 – Jonathan Katz at New York Times – How Not to Report on an Earthquake – Reporter who was in Port-au-Prince when the Haiti earthquake hit tells of the unintended consequences and misapplication of relief effort. He explains how those missteps and inaccurate or misleading reporting might also come into play with the tragic Nepal earthquake.

Two questions come to my mind after reading his article.

  • First, did the relief create more trouble than help provided?
  • Second, did the relief effort provide anywhere near as much help as many reports claim?

Distressing idea is that after pondering his observations I’m not sure anyone knows how to answer those questions.

5/4 – Chronicle of Philanthropy – You Need Money for Overhead? ‘Oh Boohoohoo!’ – Susanne Perry visited with a named donor who says she donated $3,800 to charities last year. The donor is representative of the attitude that all charities have to deal with.

The donor won’t give to NPOs unless they have a 4 star rating from Charity Navigators. Cutoff for G&A is 10% with 6% better. National charities are out of the question.

Like it or not, that is the reality many charities must work with.

Check out this interview if you need to know why charities push the limit on their functional allocation and are stuck in the starvation cycle.

5/6 – Chronicle of Philanthropy – Charities Can Now Get Dot-NGO and Dot-ONG Web Addresses until now, availability of the two new top-level domains has been restricted to charities who already had address using .org or some other extension. That allowed charities to protect their brand.

3/17 – Chronicle of Philanthropy – Dot-Org No Longer Sole Charity Identifier: Dot-NGO Arrives Today – Charities can now get a web address that ends in “.ngo” or “.ogn” as well as “.org”. There will be some level of screening to verify the legitimacy of the charity before allowing use of dot-ngo or dot-org.  NGO is “nongovernmental organization” while ONG ‘s equivalent expression used in France, and Italy.

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