ANONYMOUS QUESTION: General Operations Fund

In every Nonprofit Jenni Show podcast episode, I answer an anonymous question submitted by someone who works for a nonprofit or serves on a nonprofit organization’s board of directors. These questions may cover controversial topics, or may just come from someone who doesn’t want to be publicly associated with asking the question. Please subscribe to my podcast to make sure you catch all the advice I give from my anonymous Q&A segment!

In my recent episode on board and committee development, I answered the question, “How can I raise money for the general operations of my nonprofit?”

It can be challenging for your nonprofit to convince donors that your administrative costs are just as important as your programming costs, or the costs of that new capital campaign. Before you try to raise money for general operating expenses, it's very important to remember that donors have the legal right to restrict the way their funds are used in your organization. It is illegal to use restricted funds for your administrative costs.

One of the simplest ways you can raise more money for your area of greatest need is by simply removing a drop-down list or checkboxes that give your donors options of where their donation can go. Although you do have to respect their wishes if they want to restrict their funds for a particular program, you don't have to highlight that option so obviously. Think about it: If you see a list of different types of organizational expenses, are you ever going to check the "Administrative Expenses" box over the "Help Feed Starving Children" box? No! But if you use a very simple donation form that only has a blank comment box instead of a list of your expenses, people are less likely to restrict their funds.

If you're still having issues raising administrative expenses, I suggest going to a major donor with whom you have a longstanding relationship and be honest with them about your dilemma. Let them know that you aren't going to be able to continue programs they want to support unless you can afford to keep the lights on and pay your staff to support those programs.

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