This problematic viral picture is once again making its rounds on social media. One of your well-meaning friends will inevitably share this post at some point and your nonprofit brain will want to explode. We get it. And because this post does not seem to be going away anytime soon, we thought it best to address it.
There are so many issues with this post, from false statements to a wider negative perception on nonprofit overhead and executive salaries, that it is difficult to know where to begin. So in this blog we will provide a brief overview of the variety of issues with this post and how you can respond in a way that will educate and empower people to change their perceptions.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
This post is harmful on many different levels. On the most basic level, this post is spreading false information about multiple nonprofit organizations. It is (at best) highly outdated information. Snopes has already refuted the data given in the table, as you can see here. We won’t got further into this since Snopes has done it for us.
Perpetuating Negative Perceptions
On a larger scale, this post is harmful long-term because it feeds into a mentality that overhead is bad and that competitive wages in the nonprofit sector are unacceptable. This perception is crippling to nonprofits and needs to be addressed. There has been a recent shift within the nonprofit community on offering competitive salaries based on value. While this notion is gaining traction, there are still those that feel that nonprofit professionals should be paid less than if they were in the private sector. This viral post only reaffirms that detrimental mindset.
Even if the statistics given in this table were true, it would still be problematic. Comparing executive salaries without looking at other variables is bad research and does not present an effective means to look at an organization. A better method of measuring an organization is to look at the bigger picture. What is their program effectiveness and impact? How many people are they serving? What is their geographic scope? How are they creating long-term systemic change?
And if you are interested in the financial information, looking at ROI (return on investment) for fundraising is far more illuminating than just looking at administrative costs or salaries. Overhead is necessary to create change, and we need to be encouraging people to look past these basic numbers.
What to Do About It
Find Better Data
For those that do not want to take the time to do their own in-depth research, we highly recommend using GuideStar. They compile information about nonprofits and provide good insight into the overall health and effectiveness of an organization.
Honestly, most people sharing this post really do not know that they are sharing something harmful. Their intention is to make good choices and donate to trustworthy and effective nonprofits, and they readily believe the information being shared in this post. This is where you come in as a guiding and educating force.
The best way to address this and other issues relating to the nonprofit sector boils down to a relatively simple formula:
Our Ready-Made Response:
Here is our copy-and-paste response to this post.
(And yes, PLEASE feel free to save this somewhere so you can use it. No rights reserved)
“First of all, I really appreciate that you care about making sure nonprofit organizations are being transparent and are providing the best possible services to the people that they serve.
This response is effective because it is short, simple, and positive. We are here to educate the public on our sector, and the best way to go about this is through positive and empathetic interactions. We should combat misinformation and negative stereotypes about our field, no doubt, but please do it kindly.
You are an ambassador for our sector, so go out, lift our sector up, and change the world.
What do you think about this viral social media post? We want to hear from you! Comment below or connect with us on social media to share your thoughts!