As nonprofit communicators, we already know that we need to stop talking about the value of our  organizations based on overhead spending. Within the sector, the discussion about dispelling the “overhead myth” is lively and ongoing.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review has published a paper on the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” and just last week, hosted a webinar entitled “overcoming the overhead myth“.

While I wasn’t able to attend the webinar, the conversation I caught on Twitter after the fact was interesting and informative:



The sector’s response to the overhead myth

Influential nonprofit organizations are taking the lead in helping to bring about the kind of systemic change required to shift the focus away from nonprofit overhead.

For example, CalNonprofits has launched a multicomponent initiative they call the Nonprofit Overhead Project, which includes training, tools and collaboration with funding agencies and government.

Another example is Imagine Canada, who has taken a leadership role in starting a new conversation about charities, their important role in the Canadian economy, and the resources they need in order to make a difference.

Imagine Canada’s Narrative Tool Kit includes talking points, facts and stats and key resources to “help us rethink the use of ‘overhead’ as a measure of success”. Issue sheets and resource sheets in the kit cover such topics as advocacy, compensation, fundraising and administrative expenses, the scope of the sector and impact evaluation.

As nonprofit communicators, what are WE doing to change the conversation?

In some cases, as seen in these examples, not enough!

Let’s talk about how to move the focus away from overhead at #NPMC chat

What CAN we do? What steps can we take to change the conversation? What are the right messages and tactics to help stakeholders focus on our value, our work and our accomplishments?

Let’s figure out how to move away from talking overhead at #NPMC Twitter chat on Thursday, September 24, 1:00 p.m. ET. This month, @ImagineCanada will be joining the chat, so we’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about their Toolkit and approach. Follow the #NPMC hashtag on Twitter.

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira