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What’s wrong with being thrifty at your nonprofit?

Read the previous post in this series on the four flaws of nonprofit thinking, “What’s wrong with being nice?” and watch the video about thrifty vs. stewardship.

There are four major flaws in nonprofit thinking, and the second one is being thrifty.

I was hired by the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic to do a capital campaign for a new building. They were running out of space and needed to expand. When I looked at their storage area, I measured 22” of shelf space dedicated to Q-tips. I inquired about how many Q-tips they use in a year and found out that the amount of Q-tips they were storing would last them for twenty-six years. It only cost $5 to buy a year supply of Q-tips, and they were using up precious space to store this humungous amount of them. They were also hoarding bandages, syringes, and swabs in the same way.

The Free Clinic wanted to campaign for a new building, but they didn’t need a new building. They needed to use the space they did have in a wiser way.

Truly vibrant nonprofits practice stewardship rather than thriftiness. Stewardship is investing resources wisely, not just saving money. Organizations that are good stewards will invest in newer technology so their mission can run more effectively. They’ll invest in good office furniture so their staff is healthier and can work efficiently without discomfort. They’ll invest in higher wages, which will lower turnover and bring in experienced staff.

By getting the best, not the most, your money can buy, you’re investing in your nonprofit’s future. You’re also recognizing why the Overhead Myth is false—the good your organization is doing in your community is the primary measure of its performance, not its financial ratios alone. You shouldn’t be afraid to invest in administration and fundraising.

Don’t sacrifice your future by being thrifty.

Next week, I’ll be talking about the third major flaw in nonprofit thinking: Working Hard.

Vibrancy planning can help you invest your resources wisely. Give Brent a call to find out how to make your organization more vibrant.

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