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How to Raise Money for “Overhead”

By anonymous
July 15, 2011

Question:  For some nonprofits, one of the major expenses are salaries of employees. Any suggestions for how a nonprofit’s CEO can “make the ask” in a fundraising campaign, without sounding too self-serving?

Answer:  The most critical aspect of any organization is its people and what they make possible. Nothing wonderful happens without a creative, committed team.

This is not about salaries. This isn’t about overhead. It’s about your heroic staff, creating amazing arts programs that transform the people you touch. The end results of your efforts is the story you tell in your fundraising pitch. That’s not self-serving! Your CEO talking about the lives you change is not self-promotion—it’s the beating heart of your mission. Say it loud and proud.

You raise money by talking about the impact of your work—not about budget line items. If a donor demands to see the numbers and asks about pay, tell a great story about one of your staff to illustrate the point: that nothing wonderful happens without a creative, committed team.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid of talking about your people. They aren’t overhead—they are change agents. If they do great work, put them front and center in your stories of transformation. To use a theater term, they deserve center stage.

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