Turning into an olive

http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/management/22239-new-study-low-nonprofit-overhead-does-not-greater-efficiency.html

These are sort of two completely different topics, but in reading/watching them one after another, it really stressed a few things to me:

Low non-profit overhead cost does not mean efficiency. Nor does it mean fluent productivity. If non-profits don’t invest in their workers, they are going to constantly have turnover and lose productivity. I think of how great it is that La Puente can run on new volunteers each year, at low cost, but that certainly doesn’t make the programs productive if each year they have to start from scratch with new workers and hope they can keep progressing at the end of each year. Think of how much time volunteers spend at the beginning of their year just wading through old documents and files on the server trying to figure out how it was done in the past (For this, I think of my experience at VolCom.)

Sure, we have to find people with the compassion and heart to work for a non-profit, but we also have to make sure there is something in their cup so that they can give back to others.

The ultimate scenario in my eyes would be to invest in specific volunteers/worke for over a year. Have them commit to two—or even three years—but do so in a way that they also feel their time and energy is being respected…that they are learning and growing and gaining all this experience but that they can also live a manageable and healthy financial lifestyle.

This is where that overhead debate comes into play across the boards.

The TED talk makes an argument about investing in pre-schoolers in the US. Ideally everyone would pay taxes for the preschool, even if it isn’t directly benefiting your kid. Why? Because you are investing in your entire state/country’s future. This talk parallels with the who concept of efficiency and productivity too. By having more highly skilled and trained workers, by investing in them, you will be more efficient as a whole. By investing in preschoolers, you will have a better chance that more of them will stick around your communities.

Also, I keep reading that there are more programs popping up to train people on collaboration—within their organizations and communities—than there are programs for learning better fundraising.

Collaboration and innovation are huge!

On another note, I’ve had an opportunity to connect with a 4-year-old recently. His name is Demetrice and has been getting dropped off at our office each morning before Head Start.

The case managers are usually tied up so I take the opportunity to interact and play with him. He can be quite a handful. He acts out all the time, and cries very easily. I know he needs a lot of attention and love.

Last week he was kicking around a mop bucket and I told him we’d play a game with it. We threw a stress ball into the bucket counting numbers as we went. “If I make this one in, its worth 3 points…” “If I make this one in, its worth 200 points!” “1 million points!” His giggles and enthusiasm for the game were uncontrollable.

 

And he sure knows his numbers…

This morning while he was in the office he went right to his usual mischievous behavior squirting hand sanitizer and lotion on the floor, spilling out water from our container…

Then he opened the fridge. He said he was hungry and wanted pickles. We don’t have pickles. He points to a jar of olives and says, yes you do! Anna hesitated and said she doubted he would like them. I said why not give it a try. It turns out he loves olives, and kept asking for more.

It’s this constant juggle between trying to keep him from acting out and giving him his way…

After three more I said well Demetrice, how many have you had now because you know if you eat more than five in a row you’ll turn into an olive!

His eyes got huge and his jaw dropped.

He didn’t ask for another olive…

Thought of the day: You teach what you need in your life.

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One thought on “Turning into an olive

  1. “Sure, we have to find people with the compassion and heart to work for a non-profit, but we also have to make sure there is something in their cup so that they can give back to others.” We’ll said.

    The question is what is the most efficient way to raise and then apply the money to the needs? The PR guy recommends that we use a model in which money is raised from private voluntary contributions from the largest possible number of potential donors. He sees overhead (which happens to be his income) as a wise investment in scale. The other model which has proven successful and cost-effective is head start. The IRS collects revenue, hands it over to a government agency, which distributes it to local preschool workers, who work under conditions overseen under federal law. Clearly the government program is more efficient. It’s been demonstrated by the Post Office, Medicare. Social Security and Head Start, as examples, that government programs are more efficient than private efforts, and perhaps most importantly, they distribute income more broadly and provide secure and financially attractive work for people who are consuming the services that they provide.

    If the superiority of government programs, in selected fields, generally social services, is so obvious you might ask, then why is there constant pressure to privatize and to “allow the market and competition to lower costs and increase efficiency?” Why are we told that private bureaucracy is better than government red tape? “Worst news to one in need: ‘I am from the government and I’m here to help you.'”

    The answer is, as usual: “Follow the money.” The government can extract money easily by withdrawing it from paychecks. Corporations and NGO’s must lobby, advertise, hire consultants, wine and dine, provide perks and incentives. People with money are making the rules and they are creating work and business models for themselves and their network of peers. What is more, they do not want faceless bureaucrats in the government taking their money and redistributing it in ways that they can’t control. They want to choose their pet causes, define the needy and deserving, and contribute to those causes, either within their peer group or through their own NGOs. So it’s becoming a closed loop: PR defines the problem and PR solves it at the behest of the wealthy.

    I just read that Al Gore left the vice presidency with a net worth of 1.6 million. Last mont he brought in $100 million. And don’t get me started on TED talks.

    Vincent the crotchety old man.

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