TED Talk: Is it time for us to rethink how we support nonprofits?

In a recent TED talk, Dan Pallotta discusses how our aversion to high overhead makes it difficult for nonprofits to fulfill their missions. He argues that because we judge the success of nonprofits by how little money they spend, we place imitations on how organizations can recruit talent, spread the word about their work, scale their impact, and ultimately solve the social issues they were created to address.

Watch Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk

What do you think? Should nonprofits have more room to raise money and spend money on overhead? Do you think salaries and other forms of compensation would improve?


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  2. Along the same lines as the Pallotta talk, check out this 1-minute, 40-second video, “If We Want Our Funding to Change the World…” at http://youtu.be/z_w3v6TxJZQ. My organization, Donors Forum, released it last week as part of a project called “Real Talk About Real Costs.”

    If you want to receive occasional updates on the project, and be part of the movement to promote “real talk,” you can sign up for occasional emails athttp://eepurl.com/wH2nT

    And also check out this page http://donorsforum.typepad.com/realcosts/2013/01/suggested-reading.html, which has lots of resources on measuring impact, nonprofit overhead, nonprofit finances, and effective grantseeking and grantmaking.

    Please help spread this message by forwarding this to your networks — thanks!

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  7. Thanks to the contributors of this debate.
    We are a relatively small NGO operating in Vietnam and Cambodia. Small budget wise (1 million $) but I believe not small for impact. We achieve this by mobilizing people’s participation, they cover generally more than 50% of the total costs. Mobilizing people, community organization, takes time and energy. Thus salaries, which we refuse to call overheads. Example, the people want a bridge, budget is 2K$. We mobilize the people,everyone contributes (the poorest, with 1/2$ daily per capita income) in labor, the others in cash. 2/3 of the cost of the bridge is covered by the people, 1/3 by us.
    I want to put forward 2 more arguments. We do not bear hypocrisy, people talking high about social change and justice who are paid fat salaries and claim much comfort for their working environment. In my view salaries should be reasonable and comparatively modest if we aim at social change and some more justice for the poor. Second, low costs only are not enough: the teams should be in the field. Typically our project directors (managing 50 staff ad a yearly budget of 200K$) spend more than 60% of their time in the villages.

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