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SVP International

General Operating Support

Trust. Between funders and nonprofits, it’s hard to establish. 

Power dynamics get in the way. That’s why SVP gives multi-year grants. Building trust takes time, and change doesn’t occur without trust.

We ask a lot of the nonprofits we partner with. We ask them to show us where they’re weak – where they need help. It’s not usually the side you show a funder. But when we finally have that conversation – that’s when we all know we’re getting somewhere.

Trust also allows us to get out of the way when we’re not needed. SVP is not in the business of telling nonprofits what their mission should be, or what their programs should focus on. They’re the experts. Likewise, they know where they need to spend their money.

Most grants nonprofits receive are restricted. Nonprofits have to spend the funds on specific programs (e.g. providing backpacks for students in need). They can only use a small percentage (if any) to cover their “overhead,” which can include anything from rent to the administrative assistant’s salary.

We believe that this distinction is unnecessary and hamstrings nonprofits. (And we’re not alone on this.)

What impact is the organization having on our community? Can they demonstrate it? Have we built a relationship on a foundation of mutual trust? These are the questions we focus on. If the answers are solid, where they spend their grant dollars is irrelevant.

More on General Operating Support

 

Going overboard on overhead

Last week, both CBS and the New York Times ran stories about the Wounded Warrior Project and its apparent lavish spending and mismanagement. The questions and concerns raised are valid and I'm not defending any of the Wounded Warrior Project's practices or decisions. However, I do want to address the limitations of using overhead as a proxy for effectiveness.

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When Does More Money Hold You Back?

I know I’m an unrestricted funding broken record, but I need to share just one more story. A few weeks ago I was halfway around the world at the Skoll World Forum. I met three CEO’s of significant NGO’s – all in the $10 million revenue range – who told me restricted funding is strangling them.

Every one said they’d rather be HALF THE SIZE with 100% unrestricted funds because they would have MORE IMPACT.

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Goodbye Overhead Myth, Hello Capacity Building

Unrestricted funding and strengthening nonprofits is part of the SVP DNA. We do our best to walk the talk, but it’s also important to talk the talk – sparking conversations in the social sector. In two recent publications, staff members Lynn Coriano, Sally Gillis and Paul Shoemaker shared their thoughts.

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Ordering a Cake and Restricting It Too

For the past few months, one of the staff has had an eye that’s been twitching. “It’s this grant!” she says, “it’s for our after-school program. It pays for instructors’ teaching time, but not their planning time! How can they teach when they can’t plan?! How? How?!”

“Psst,” I whispered, “let’s talk in the conference room. Since they are dedicated they will plan anyway even without getting paid,”—I paused, looking around—“why don’t you just increase their hourly wages?”

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