“Those of us working in nonprofit organizations need to take our eyes off of overhead ratios and put [our focus] far out into the sky and look at our dreams for impact.” — Dan Pallotta
Pallotta is talking about the dreams that got us involved in our organizations in the first place.
Work in the nonprofit sector often gets clouded by stigmas and the notion that no one is supposed to spend any money. We get forced into focusing our first priority on how we’re spending (or not spending) money, rather than making a difference. Visions for impact should be priority number one, and those visions and actions are actually the ultimate fiduciary duty.
Whether you realize it or not, organizations in the nonprofit sector tend to speak in jargon so much, that a lot of times no one even knows what you’re saying. We see what other organizations are doing and how they shape their message, and get stuck in a vacuum of operational models and precedences that we forget how people actually talk.
Does low overhead mean high impact? Is the opposite true? Or are we just wasting time talking about overhead when we should be focused on our dreams and action for impact?
To be fair, every industry does it, but regardless, Pallotta suggests that we humanize our message—which oftentimes means deleting over half of what you’ve written and reshaping what you’ve kept in order to connect with people on a human level. This is in relation to both your public messaging and your internal communications, which includes things like overhead, specific languaging for programs and models you use to achieve your mission. Though these terms are helpful to internal communications, they’re typically not essential for potential supporters.
People care about the result and impact of your actions, but they don’t always care about how it’s getting done. They care more about why you’re doing what you’re doing and what the results are, rather than what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.
Removing the jargon and focusing on dreams and actions as your number one priority will create change in your organization that will transcend into your everyday work. Creating big change in an entire sector is no little endeavor, but each movement is a small step in the right direction.
Originally posted 2.17.17 — Updated 2.2.2018