Controlling Overhead: Finding an Unpaid Nonprofit CEO

An organization that avoids overhead by paying employees nothing, avoids program evaluations and spends close to zero in technical infrastructure can't possibly be the best social investment.
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December is the time of year that brings companies into the black, and also starts the engines for end-of-year giving appeals. With each day, we are bombarded by hordes of product reviews and the overpowering onslaught of deals – and with it the annual evaluation of charity overhead begins.

Here we go again.

By now your friend's brother's aunt has shared the link to the frequently emailed article about why you shouldn't donate to charities that pay their CEOs a fair wage (the list isn't even accurate). You know, the one that starts with:

Keep these facts in mind when 'donating.' As you open your pockets for yet another holiday season or natural disaster, keep the following facts in mind; we have listed them from the highest (worst paid offender) to the lowest (least paid offender)...
read more.

This season I am too tired to fight the argument that percentage overhead is a useful measure of nonprofit efficacy. An organization that avoids overhead by paying employees nothing, avoids program evaluations and spends close to zero in technical infrastructure can't possibly be the best social investment. So, instead of attempting to deflate these tired arguments, I have decided to offer a solution for reducing overhead with a sample CEO job posting and one-year plan nonprofits can use for recruiting.

Nonprofit CEO

Available Opening

Chief Executive Officer -- CEO, [Insert Nonprofit]
Key Responsibilities
  • Lead a team to execute our one-year strategic plan (noted below).
  • Represent organization in corporate, government and sector gatherings at home and abroad.
  • Lead a successful fundraising campaign with no overhead. Includes delivering large sums of cash from donors to community.
  • Masters degree and/or a combination of education, professional and life experiences will be considered.
  • Minimum of 15 years of demonstrated success in non-profit organization executive management.
  • Strong writing, accounting, social service and technical ability preferred.
  • Ability to work without an income for food, shelter or other basic necessities
  • Keen analytic, critical thinking and problem solving abilities that support sound decision making.
  • Tech and data savvy, experience utilizing digital platforms and social media.

One-Year Overhead Plan
In response to the changing demand of funders we are looking to reduce all overhead including but not limited to office space, technology and software, salaried employees, donation processing fees, benefits, impact analysis and transportation costs. Ideal candidate should be able and willing to bicycle (or drive at own expense) to retrieve our donor's sacks of cash to deliver directly to our stakeholders.

Salary: $0 (incommensurate with experience)

Benefits: Working for an incredible cause, warm fuzzy feelings.*

To Apply
: Send cover letter, resume with three references and answer the following:
  • Why do you care about [Insert Nonprofit]?
  • Are you a millionaire? (Yes|No)
*Fuzzy feelings may not exceed a value of minimum wage or $7.25/hr, whichever is lower.

Just In Case

In case this job posting isn't the magic bullet to solving overhead as an evaluation tool for your holiday giving, here are some suggestions.
  • Give where you volunteer, or to nonprofits that your friends or family work with.
  • Look for organizations in your backyard doing great work. GuideStar can help with research and ratings, but don't be that lazy donor who only looks at a 990.
  • Check out America's Charities for a carefully vetted list of their member charities. (Full disclosure: I am on their board, they're cool.)
  • Look at the great organizations that made it to the finals of the New York Community Trust -- New York Magazine Nonprofit Excellence Awards. An award focused just on great management within the nonprofit sector.
  • If you can't find any great organizations, tweet me. @WholeWhale
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