The OCP Blog
Not long ago the nonprofit information service, Guidestar, along with two other prominent competitors, published an open letter titled “The Overhead Myth.” The letter sought to dispel a common perception among funders that money spent on “overhead” is inherently wasteful and should be as small as possible. The smaller the overhead numbers, the thinking goes, the healthier the organization. In my own quest for grants I have, at times, gotten the impression that funders sometimes think of staff salaries as “overhead,” which can go hand-in-hand with unhealthy expectations that small, “scrappy” nonprofits ought to spend a bare minimum on staff. This is a harmful misconception.
So do staff salaries count as “overhead?” The answer is (mostly) no! Overhead includes time spent on financial planning and budgeting, as well as on fundraising and general administration. At OCP, only one staff member (me!) spends a significant time on administration and fundraising. The rest of our staff spend almost 100% of their time planning and leading program activities, which includes the coordination of meals, our kitchen enterprises, recreational and educational activities, and community care, which is the relationship-building work that lies at the core of OCP’s mission. Moreover, we have found that it is crucial that we have no fewer than two management team members in the building any time OCP is open, as this ensures there are enough staff to facilitate programs, build relationships, and create healthy ratios in order make our facility a safe place for people who come from traumatic backgrounds. These staff functions are not overhead, and are in fact the core of what OCP offers to the community.
So yes, when you make an unrestricted gift to OCP, 68% of that gift is allocated to salaries, but at OCP, 80% of funding for salaries is, in fact, direct programming support. Our pledge to our supporters is that we will spend our time honing our programming to improve the quality of life of our community members, and we hope you will continue supporting us, especially our staff, so that we can achieve the results our community needs.