The last couple days I’ve talked about charity salary levels and how, I believe, salaries and the “overhead myth”  issues are a two way street. Today I want to throw out some ideas to help change things, shift the conversation and work towards a brighter tomorrow (how cheesy did that sound…). I’d love to know your thoughts.

I joked with my former CEO that if I sat down at a cultivation meeting and “What is your overhead” was one of the first questions asked, I would simply pay for that person’s coffee say “Have a nice day” and walk out the door. I never really did that because I wouldn’t have a job and I would’ve been walking out of more doors than through them but the thinking was if you are so misguided on charity and why/how to give why should we waste our time convincing and educating you?

This is the thinking that led to the thought… originally proposed by re: charity favourite Dan Pallotta but gestating my my brain for months now… what if we created a organization (nonprofit perhaps…?) that only existed to educate the media, donors and the public at large about some key charity misconceptions and myths like compensation and overhead ratios? Mr. Pallotta suggested running full page colour ads in newspapers with nonprofit staff working wearing t-shirts that say “I am overhead” or maybe people charities help serve (marginalized, economically disadvantaged, underrepresented and so on) with signs behind them or shirts on reading “You didn’t help me because of 5%”. What about them apples.

Another thought is to work with a videographer and multiple organizations to go around to major donors, key fundraisers and charity executives to talk about what is considered “overhead” and how it is needed for growth and impact. We could interview some key philanthropists talking about the need for unrestricted giving. We could get people from the CRA and watchdog sites to weigh in on their actual stance and why. We can have the AFP weigh in. Even Steve Nash (my wife, American newly moved to Canada, has a theory that Steve Nash is the Canadian godfather because he has ties to everything… think about it…). Everyone who participated can share the video, post on websites, and use with their donors. We can approach the media and engage in a discussion about the real issues we face (wouldn’t it be neat to read an article written about how slaries aren’t high enough?.

We are looking for movement here folks. To use a Quote from Marrianne Williamson, “your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” For too long we have shrunk. We have skirted the question hoping it wouldn’t catch up to us, complied with donor wishes and succumbed to our current reality. Let’s ruffle some feathers. Let’s shake things up a bit. Let’s have some real conversations. Let’s serve the world. Let’s be big.

Our salaries depend on it…joking…

What do you think? How do you help educate donors? Are these ideas too risky? Been done?