21 “nonprofit math” problems that expose the absurdity of doing good

Hi everyone, if you’re free this Thursday evening and are in the Seattle area, please drop by MOHAI for a book reading I’ll be doing. It’s free with registration, and there will be hummus and door prizes (or possibly hummus AS door prizes, we’re still deciding). REGISTER HERE. This is the only book reading I’m doing in the foreseeable future, because “Castlevania: Nocturne” on Netflix is not going to rewatch itself.

Last week, I created a short video on “Nonprofit Math,” following a trend on social media all the kids have been raging about, regarding different types of math: boy math, girl math, corporate math, etc. The 50-second clip I made went kind of viral, watched nearly a million times. Sure, I look super sexy there, with only one eye involuntarily twitching from stress, and the grantwriting-induced wrinkles smoothed out by hotel room lighting. But I think the topic hit a nerve with folks in the sector because we’re all exhausted by the various shenanigans we’ve been forced to endure.

For so long we nonprofit professionals have been twisting our brains into knots trying to comply with the various expectations and requirements imposed on us in the sector and by society. When it’s all laid out bare, we realize none of it should be normal, that it’s all ridiculous! Here are some ways “nonprofit math” manifests, including the items in the video:

  1. Nonprofit math is when you spend $80,000 to net $50,000 at your annual fundraising gala
  2. Nonprofit math is spending $20,000 and months to hire someone who quit because they were underpaid by $10,000
  3. Nonprofit math is when a funder gives a nonprofit HALF the grant amount requested but expects full activities and outcomes.
  4. Nonprofit math is when the City provides a nonprofit a grant that reimburses them 73 cents for every dollar spent delivering services, so the nonprofit is basically subsidizing the government while doing work government should be doing.
  5. Nonprofit math is a nonprofit paying its staff so low they qualify for the services the nonprofit provides
  6. Nonprofit math is when funders expect nonprofits to keep overhead rates below 15%, when most foundations, because they don’t run programs, are 100% overhead.  
  7. Nonprofit math is when nonprofits are expected to spend $2,000’s worth of staff time in grantwriting and reporting for a $1,000 grant
  8. Nonprofit math is when less than 10% of philanthropic dollars across the sector go to communities-of-color-led organizations when the majority of people most affected by systemic injustice are people of color

Read full article here.

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About the author

Barbara Clark Galupi