Posted by Jay Wilkinson


You want to impact the world and be sure every dollar you spend helps accomplish your mission—that’s understandable. But sometimes the best way to change the world is to invest right back into your organization.

There is a difference between operating as a frugal nonprofit and operating as a cheap one. A frugal organization is willing to spend on overhead that increases their bottom line in the future and makes their work more efficient. A cheap one will avoid costs for the sake of appearing fiscally prudent.

The key to investing wisely in your organization is to consider how you can make significant parts of your organization more efficient and effective. Many nonprofits try to do too much and spread limited resources around on too many things. Or they view something as a “cost” when really it’s an “investment” and there is significant ROI that could be realized. It’s important to understand the difference.

Here are five areas worth your investment.

  1. People. This is your nonprofit’s biggest and most important asset. The employees, board members and volunteers that make up your organization should always be a first priority in your organization when it comes to spending money.
     
  2. Education and self-development. Go to an AFP conference. Purchase online training for your staff. Train your board in fundraising and outreach. Buy books to create an office library. Invest in things that lead to a more educated, well-developed team.
     
  3. A blog. This is likely a bigger investment of time than money (unless you want to hire writers), but it’s truly one that will help your nonprofit in the long term. It may take you significant effort to launch it and get it rolling, even for the first few months. But after awhile, you will see the benefits, which can include everything from an SEO boost to positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field.
     
  4. Technology. Simply put, don’t work on old computers that break down or can’t run key programs. If you use something every day (or it’s high value like your website), then invest in what you need to do it right—it won’t serve you well to be cheap.
     
  5. Your (smart) marketing budget. Unfortunately, when we’re feeling a little short on money, many of us cut back on the programs that we need most, like marketing, direct mail and fundraising. But these are actually the places to invest in more when economic times are tough. Just be sure to invest in the type of marketing and fundraising that helps develop long-term funding, like building donor relationships and thanking your constituents.

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