A single mom can’t feed, clothe or shelter her children on a minimum wage job. A rehabilitated prisoner can’t make ends meet on a part-time job, nor can a line cook provide for his family on an unfair wage. So why do nonprofits think they can change the world on a shoestring budget?

In the United States and around the world, nonprofits (NPOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) constantly respond to things with “we can’t afford it” – and yet life saving work happens every day.

  • In Denver, an NPO invests time, money and relationships into ensuring high-risk youth stay in school, graduate and have the life skills to function in society after high school.
  • In Washington DC, an NPO assists people who are homeless with acquiring the identification they need to receive assistance and a stay safe where they rest their head at night.
  • In Southern Africa, a tiny NPO does the life saving work of caring for, feeding and nurturing people dieing of AIDS.

What do all these groups have in common? They do their extremely important work on a shoestring budget.

Getting-Out-BannerWhat is it that has conditioned us that we can’t spend money on doing good? Who said only corporations or big business can make a profit? No, an NPO can’t pay out a profit at the end of the year, but imagine how much more good could happen if NPOs did make more money, invested more financially in their employees and stopped saying no to spending money? Isn’t there some rule of thumb that you have to spend money to make money? And if NGOs were making more money, wouldn’t they be making more impact? Wouldn’t they be able to significantly decrease school dropouts, ensuring safety for those who are homeless and dismantle larger sections of the systems which create homelessness? And wouldn’t this help eradicate HIV instead of nursing so many living with HIV and AIDS?

NPOs aren’t meant to generate a profit; they have the tax status they do because their intention is to help people. So can we start saying yes to spending money and stop encouraging piece-mealing work? How often does a shoe string budget really relieve the issue?