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How to strategically invest your nonprofit giving

Worse than that, some accountability checks are not just ineffective; they’re harmful.


Administrative costs are the ratio of a nonprofit’s budget that is spent on direct services, versus operating expenses like staff, accounting, marketing and maintenance.

Donors who want to do the most good often look at admin costs to decide where to invest. It’s really important for nonprofits to spend wisely, but
Giving this way is like being a stingy business owner who refuses to pay for the things his or her business needs to thrive.

The truth is, investing into an organization's admin costs is important. At Unseen, we invest our services into anti-slavery initiatives. Our funding is limited, so we’re constantly working to maximize our investments. Through partnerships with effective organizations around the world, we’ve found that the most strategic donors are the ones willing to invest in the essential, boring things that nonprofits really need. The problem is that investing this way can be less


Sometimes higher spending means higher investment in growth. Consider this example of two different businesses’ approaches to spending money:


The best businesses spend money, not because they’re frivolous, but because it’s necessary for growth. Why do we have a double standard when it comes to nonprofits? When we do, the results are damaging; in an attempt to keep spending low, many organizations can’t make the purchases, hires, and investments necessary to expand. They’re stuck running their organizations like Adam: doing good work, but unable to do great work. They can’t retain staff with competitive wages, and they waste time with old technology and bad systems. Our expectations of “low admin costs” crush their vision and shrink their impact.


they do, not how much they spend on business cards.

If we realize that the nonprofits who spend strategically are sometimes doing the best work, we might all give a little smarter. If we believe that investing in organizations is worth it, we’ll all create more good. And if we look at overall impact instead of individual percentage, we may give nonprofits the space they need to truly change the world.

At Unseen, we invest in organizations doing the best work in the fight against trafficking by helping them grow. Consider changing the world with Unseen by donating to end slavery.