Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Charity Leaders Begin to Focus on Overhead Issue. More to do.

If you have not noticed, some of the big charity leaders are beginning to focus on the "overhead" issue, or the way charities are rated based on the percent of money they pay on salaries, training, technology, learning, etc., which are the essential building blocks for strong organizations. Visit "The Overhead Myth" site to get engaged with this on a national basis, or this Donors Forum hosted site to connect on a Chicago level.

I wonder how much of this is the result of the work Dan Pallota has done to put a spotlight on this issue? Dan gave a TED talk a few months ago that I wrote about here and here.

When I read Dan's book in 2011 I created a map to outline the chapters, recognizing that parts of the book, and parts of Dan's background, were pretty controversial. Let's focus on the parts we agree upon.

In my own comments I've emphasized that networks of non-profits and social benefit organizations focusing on similar issues, such as youth in high poverty areas, could be forming communities of practice and innovating ways to build on-going, year-round communications campaigns that address some of the challenges Dan describes and that are described in these articles in the Tutor/Mentor Connection library.

I keep using graphic like this one, and others which you can see on my Pinterest Boards, to illustrate quarterly events that can draw needed operating resources into tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago. Such strategies can help programs attract talented people and keep them engaged for 5-, 10-years, or longer, so their knowledge, network and impact grows and they have more influence on the aspirations and habits of the kids who come through their programs, as well as the volunteers who provide time and talent.

Talking about overhead without talking about the flow of resources needed to build strong organizations is not enough. Talking about this without using maps to talk about all the places where high quality programs are needed is not enough, either.

This article may be read by one or two hundred people. That's not enough to change the way philanthropy and social benefit organizations are supported in Chicago, let alone in every city in the country. However, if you pass this story on to other people in your own network, more people will read it, and more people will find ways to integrate this thinking into their own discussions and actions.

We are all part of networks. How we engage our networks in social problem solving, now and in the future, will determine what the world we leave to our children looks like.

Read other articles with ideas like this at Mapping for Justice and Tutor/Mentor Intern blogs.

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