“Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world.”
That’s among the best-known quotes from nonprofit activist Dan Pallotta, who continued his crusade to change the way people think about charity finances on Oct. 11 in Orlando.
2-1-1 Executive Director Libby Donoghue attended the one-day “Ignite: Cause Innovation Conference,” where Pallotta joined a high-powered series of speakers in front of an audience of nonprofit leaders.
Pallotta hammers home his message that the nonprofit model is backwards: That nonprofits – like businesses – may need to spend more money to make more money.
“When you hear him, you feel yourself saying, ‘That makes sense. That really makes sense,” she said. “But then you start asking yourself how you could really go about changing the culture that says the best nonprofits are the ones that spend the lowest percentages on fundraising and administration.”
Donoghue adapted a Pallotta example: “You could have a bake sale with 5 percent fundraising cost and make only $71 or you could spend $14 million – 20 percent – to stage a fundraiser and make $71 million.”
During the Oct. 11 presentation, Donoghue said Pallotta encouraged people to stop fixating on “overhead.” She said he maintains overhead can’t be separated from program costs because “it’s all part of the cost of doing business – part of the cost of offering services.”
Pallotta is credited with pioneering multi-day fundraising events, such Breast Cancer 3-Day Walks and AIDS Rides.
His TED Talks video, “The Way We Think about Charity is Dead Wrong,” came out earlier this year and is the 50th most watched on the website. TED Talks showcase presentations from world-renowned TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conferences.
Other speakers on Oct. 11 included:
- Jonah Berger, an assistant professor at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania whose award-winning research in marketing has been featured in “The New Tomes” and the “Wall Street Journal.”
- Jack Andraka, a teen who won the 2012 grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for developing an inexpensive test for early-stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer.
- Todd Henry, CEO and founder of Accidental Creative whose work with companies has been featured in “Forbes” and “Fortune.”
Donoghue said the conference promoted innovation as the way to move forward and improve nonprofit performance.
“How do you remain good stewards of your funders’ and donors’ dollars but not hamstring yourself from taking even minor risks that could pay off exponentially?” she asked.
Donoghue attended the conference with financial support from United Way of Brevard.
“The challenge is to be empowered by such presentations but mindful of the potential negative consequences. We’ve got a lot of thinking and talking to do.”