Article: The Guardian Long Read on The White Helmets

This article – about the tragic death of James Le Mesurier, co-founder of The Mayday Rescue (also known as The White Helmets) – is both an inspiring story of a life of service and a dispiriting account of cynical politics at its worst. It’s also a good example of the administrative challenges of work in NGOs in contexts where most…

Responsibility: who pays?

Taking responsibility means that you commit to doing what’s necessary to make something happen – and that you pay for your mistakes. We are often reluctant about the second part – I think with good intentions. But if people keep making the same mistakes at someone else’s expense, there’s a good chance that they don’t really understand the cost. Having…

The next shell up

As your organisation grows you’ll discover yourself passing through awkward, vulnerable seeming inbetween stages, like when you’re… Too big to operate out of your house but too small to afford an office; Too big for everyone to be involved in everything but too small for truly specialised teams; Big enough to need a good accountant / media person / office…

Burn rate (4): black beans and rice (or: cutting costs for a longer runway)

Of course, efficiency is a virtue. Waste is… wasteful, makes everyone worse at their jobs, and reduces the number of possibilities open to you and your team. Knowing where it goes Good financial management is essential for this, of course: you need to know what’s being spent, on what and who by before you can make savings. Get help! The…

Burn rate (3): revenue first (better before cheaper)

Given the formula [available cash / (income – expenditure), there are two obvious ways to extend your organisation’s life: you can increase income (revenue) or reduce expenditure. Revenue First You need to think about revenue first because without income it doesn’t matter how efficient you are. In fact, in terms of staying alive efficiency doesn’t matter at all. As long…

Burn rate (2): stayin’ alive

Startups with huge burn rates – building leases, staff, PR and advertising – ran out of money. Most startups born in the bubble died in the bubble. Steve Blank – Is the Lean Startup Dead? If you can get your burn rate low enough you can stay in the game longer with a given amount of cash in the bank……

Burn rate (1): the formula

Your organisation’s burn rate is the amount of money you “burn” each month to do what you do. It’s a simple sum, but few organisations seem to keep a close eye on it. Expenses How much are you spending each month? Make sure you count everything – especially big annual expenses you need to be saving towards, or reserves you…

Who pays? (client / user edition)

It means all kinds of things if the client or user of a non-profit organisation’s services pays. The organisation will be focused on the client, and their needs – “She who pays the piper calls the tune.” The non-profit will be able to charge only in proportion to the usefulness of the service they provide (and in proportion to the…

Who pays? (Donor edition)

“Who pays?” is an important question for all sorts of reasons. In the world of non-profits, donors often pay. This can mean: That the charity is free to act in the best interests of the people it seeks to serve, unburdened by the demands of the market and client’s ability to pay That the charity is beholden to the whim…