From the Bridge Conference: Your Mission or Your Overhead Ratio?
The issue of fundraising overhead ratios and the ways in which charity watchdogs evaluate nonprofit organizations has been at the forefront of the fundraising sector for a while now, and it's an issue that isn't going away anytime soon.
We have covered it here at FundRaising Success many times over, but never quite as aggressively as Steve Nardizzi, executive director of Wounded Warrior Project, did yesterday at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference. In his opening keynote session, "Your Mission or Your Overhead Ratio — Which Should Be Priority #1 in Your Organization?," Nardizzi came out swinging against charity watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch — those that rate nonprofits and tell donors to only donate to ones that meet their ratings standards — and the media that spread negative views of nonprofits and fundraising.
"Without investing in fundraising, you may raise money, but you won't make a big impact," Nardizzi said. "… The clear message from news reports and watchdogs is that overhead is bad. If you spend money on fundraising, at best you are horribly inefficient and at worst you are fraudulent. The news media is helping perpetuate the myth on how nonprofits should be run, and the public is starting to believe it."
Nardizzi said these reports, and the "charity watchdogs" that tell donors to donate to organizations based solely on overhead and financial ratios, pass judgment on how charities should go about fulfilling their missions and how to sustain their organizations over the long run. And he says at times they flat-out misrepresent the sector to donors.
These small groups, fellow nonprofits themselves, are controlling the conversation, and Nardizzi says that's not right. So since day one at Wounded Warrior Project, he decided he was not going to let these organizations dictate how WWP was going to do business.