Steve Nardizzi, former CEO of Wounded Warrior Project, was an amazing leader for the Wounded Warrior Project. He took the organization from teeny-tiny, to a budget of over $400 Million in only a few years. Very few organizations and CEO’s can say that.
Imagine how many people you can help with $1 million versus $400 million.
An Inspiration to Fundraisers Everywhere
Mr. Nardizzi was a real inspiration to fundraisers everywhere.
I heard him speak a few years back at a major fundraising conference in Washington DC. I was looking forward to hearing again at the AFP Conference in Boston next week. Now that he’s been terminated, I doubt he’ll show. But I hope he does – I’d love to hear his side of the story.
As fundraisers, we know it takes money to raise money. The question is, how much? What’s the right amount?
- Is it 20%?
- Is it 30%?
- What about 50%?
And, how do we communicate that with donors and the public?
Should Programs and Services Get Priority?
Many donors believe that the vast majority of their dollars should be put directly toward programs and services. But what does that really mean?
Organization A boasts only 10% goes to administrative costs, including fundraising. Donors love to hear that.
The budget has stayed the same for more than a decade. Programs and services haven’t grown in over 30 years. The founding executive director is passionate about the cause, but has no formal management or fundraising experience or training. No one knows if the programs are working, because they are not being evaluated. There is just enough to keep the lights on – barely.
Organization B, on the other hand, has 40% overhead… much of that going to fundraising.
It has grown rapidly in the last 10 years. The Executive Director has years of experience and advanced training in nonprofit management and fundraising. The budget has grown tenfold as have the number of clients served. Programs and services are regularly evaluated and modified to maximize impact.
Which organization would you rather support?
Paying Nonprofit Staff What They’re Worth
It’s nearly impossible for nonprofit organizations to operate at full efficiency and tackle some of the world’s most challenging issues when they don’t have the latest technology, can’t hire the best staff members, and don’t experiment or innovate.
Steve Nardizzi was a hero in many fundraising circles. To see him fall is devastating. It’s also heartbreaking to learn he was spending money on first class tickets, accommodations, and parties.
That doesn’t negate the fact that nonprofit staff members should be paid what they’re worth.
I want only the best people to lead the world’s most important organizations. To get them, we must compensate them.
It’s when staff members are paid peanuts that we get dysfunctional organizations and inexperienced leaders. If donors want to have the most impact, they will need to pay the best leaders that money can buy.
Changing the Conversation
We need to help change the conversation.
We cannot solve the world’s most challenging problems with inexperienced and unqualified leaders. We cannot solve the world’s problems sitting on broken chairs and using outdated computers.
Mr. Nardizzi provided unprecedented leadership and growth to Wounded Warriors. Somewhere along the way he crossed a line.
We are the ones who have to defend high salaries and administrative costs to donors. It gets harder each time there’s a scandal.
I hope Mr. Nardizzi shows up at the AFP conference next week. I’d love to hear from him.
How will you turn this situation into an opportunity to engage your donors? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.