Highly visible work doesn’t happen without operating funds
Delawareans are a mighty force when it comes to volunteerism. Collectively, our state’s citizens give more than 24 million hours of volunteer service annually (National & Community Service Corp., 2018). Those donated hours are invaluable to the more than 1,000 nonprofits operating in Delaware. But, when it comes to donating financially, there is a story that isn’t being fully told.
Nonprofits are grateful for any and all donations, let’s make that clear. But, when it comes to directing those donations, often people choose a specific program of their favorite nonprofit. For example, Mrs. Smith has seen the amazing work that her local senior center does keeping seniors engaged and vibrant, while giving a break to their caregivers and family members. When she writes out her check to them, she designates her money to the Caregivers Relief Program. What she may not know is that the Caregivers program is heavily funded now and into the future, but the center may be struggling with things that are less visible but still vital to the health of the organization – things like much-needed repairs to the senior center plumbing or providing enough nutritious food to their members. Without these issues solved, this nonprofit can’t grow and thrive – and serve more seniors and their families.
While this is only an example, it does illustrate the difference between donating restricted dollars (to a specific program) versus giving to the general operating fund. As Delawareans, we need to not just donate to the programs, but also to fund the “stuff” that ensures those programs work effectively – what some call “overhead.” Everyone wants to see low overhead or operating costs of nonprofits – news stories of overinflated salaries have tainted our view of what nonprofits need in order to run their businesses.
In order to have sustainable nonprofits, they need to have funds to hire bookkeepers and accountants and to be able to invest in effective software to track expenses and measure quality, among other things. We want strong leadership at these organizations, so they need to have money for professional development and to pay competitive wages. We want nonprofits to promote their impact on the communities they serve, which requires funds devoted to websites, brochures, publicity, and research and evaluation. We want nonprofits to innovate, which means they need up-to-date technology to explore new initiatives, and to track and measure the effectiveness of their innovation.
Traditional sources of funding – foundation, government and business grants, financially backed partnerships and sponsorships are not growing at the same pace as the demands on their service from the audiences they work with and the increasing costs to do that work effectively and efficiently. There is a growing gap.
Thus, it is up to each of us to help make up the difference. We all benefit from the work of nonprofits in Delaware, and I encourage you to consider making a gift this year to a nonprofit of your choice with the permission to apply those dollars where they can use them the most – their general operating fund. If you have already donated to a program run by your favorite nonprofit, it’s not too late to give again to their general fund – even if it’s a small amount – it will be put to good use in ensuring the health of the organization.
Thank you for your generosity now and in the future,