When it comes to non-profits, the word “overhead” carries a lot of weight. For example, Form 990 has an entire page dedicated to breaking out an entity’s expenses by type, with a total at the bottom which sums all program, fundraising, and administrative expenses–the latter two collectively known as “overhead.” Thus, it would seem this emphasis on measuring overhead is assumed even at the highest levels; but where is the value in this? Donors like knowing where their dollars are going with respect to the non-profit’s mission, but why be concerned about the mission today if the organization isn’t going to be here tomorrow? Non-profits are faced with a dilemma: while it’s critical to their long-term success that they spend their money wisely and invest it in ways that will ensure their livelihood, they’re under immense public pressure to keep overhead low.
At Barnes Dennig’s annual non-profit seminar, we were fortunate enough to have Peter Brinckerhoff–a thought leader in the non-profit sector–discuss overhead. Peter said plainly to the crowd, “Do not spend all of your money every year.” A movement has begun in the non-profit sector to transform the public idea of overhead, and Barnes Dennig is in support of this effort. The website Overhead Myth has been created to help spread the message. For the sake of the needs within our communities which the non-profit sector is fighting to address, Barnes Dennig is urging readers to visit the above website and reconsider their idea of how they measure a non-profit’s success.