In my last blog post, I encouraged you to listen to a TEDtalk entitled, “How we think about charity is dead wrong.” The speaker, Dan Pallotta, issued this challenge:
“The next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams…how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true, regardless of what the overhead is.”
I asked you to consider how this challenge might change the way you behave as a donor, money manager and fundraiser. As women involved in churches and other charities, we perform all three stewardship roles at one time or another. We donate money; we help charities make decisions about spending money; and, we help charities raise the money they need. In this post, I’ll reflect on how Pallotta’s challenge might impact the way we act as money managers.
Have you served on a planning committee that spent money, voted on a church budget or managed money for your family? People in these roles are often praised for keeping costs low and even, in some cases, running a surplus. Pallotta seems to recommend a different approach. What if, instead of focusing on how to spend less or save more, we gave equal attention to another question: Are we spending enough to accomplish our goals? And, what would we do if we had more resources?
If we do not ask these questions, the charity may keep a balanced budget, but it will not reach its potential to change the world. Most charities have missions that are longer-term than a fiscal cycle. Think of mobilizing women to act boldly on their faith, eradicating malaria, or overcoming racism, for instance. To be successful, a charity needs to question its own approach regularly and ask if it is spending money effectively. Keeping costs low or ending the year in the black is irrelevant if the charity is not making sufficient progress toward its mission. Money managers must be willing to consider that the organization may need to spend more or spend differently.
If we trust the organization’s capacity to achieve the mission, then spending too little should be just as concerning as spending too much. What do you think? How would your stewardship be different if you helped your church or other charities to ask, “Are we spending enough?”
Of course, asking this question requires us to trust that more money can be raised if it is needed. In part 3, we’ll look at what Pallotta’s challenge might mean for donors and where the money comes from when an organization decides that it needs to spend more.
Emma Crossen is director for stewardship and development.