. Most nonprofits experience that relentless gap between meeting their vision and having adequate resources to do so. We want to make that gap smaller, so we’ve rounded up tips that nonprofits use successfully to save money in the day-to-day.
Nonprofits save money on talent, but they don’t skimp!
- Use volunteers. Volunteers aren’t free, but those that invest their time regularly to your cause are worth their weight in gold. Don’t focus on volume of volunteers, but rather quality and retention – volunteers are your talent, too.
- Hire contract workers & interns. There are some jobs that need more regular attention and a higher skill level than volunteers can provide. Temporary hires like contractors and interns allow your nonprofit to save money when it takes on short-term or medium-term projects, rather than full-time work. They also have the potential to alleviate some of the pressure of full-time employees that wear many hats. In that case, interns and contractors can build their resume with robust projects, your employees get experience in management, and the organizations saves funds.
- Create robust training resources for temporary hires and volunteers. Creating trainings take time on the front end. The investment, though, will allow you to cut down on the staff time it takes to train each new cohort.
- Stack your board with professionals. Think about positions that provide a strong foundation to your operations, like an attorney, accountant, tax advisor, and area experts in your field. Many people from these industries welcome the chance to give their time to nonprofit sector. They are able to be advocates for an important cause and you get free advice you need when you need it. This is not to mention the advantages that can come from cross-pollinating work cultures between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
- Leverage online resources for branding, marketing, and creative. There’s no longer a reason to outsource this work to consultants or to hire a marketing department. Many apps out there, like Canva, offer free or low-cost platforms that allow lay people (read: your staff, interns, volunteers) to create beautiful social media posts, letterheads, and informational graphics for branding and marketing. Don’t do away with branding! But let staff team up to flex their creativity and take on some of the load of social media and PR action items.
Nonprofits save money on office resources (while saving the environment)
- Downsize office space and allow employees to work remotely. You’ll cut utility costs that come with a big office space. Zoom has become a major tool for nonprofits to make this transition seamless. Learn more about their nonprofit options and how to save in our Zoom review. GoToMeeting from LogMeIn is also a nonprofit favorite and offers a suite of tools including LastPass for cybersecurity.
- Go green. Help your nonprofit save money by swapping out paper mailings for electronic mail. Go back to the original coffee pot instead of using plastic single-serve coffee pods. Make space in the office for employees to keep mugs and cups they bring from home in order to cut down on disposables. If you take steps to reduce use of paper and plastic products (combined with the utility savings mentioned in #6), you’ll save money and it will be seen as a win by your supporters and staff as well.
- Do for your office what you did for your home – get rid of that landline. Most adults have cell phones now. It may be more cost effective to subsidize personal telecommunications resources than outfit an office with a phone system.
Nonprofits save money by being smart with the money they have
- Analyze program expenses and annual budget on a regular basis. This is a common business practice, and the value can’t be overestimated. Most nonprofits already track expenses for annual reports and to fulfill donor and grant requirements. Be proactive, though, in finding creative opportunities to save or drive efficiency within your operations.
- Track discretionary expenses, too. Analyze these trends regularly so that you can pinpoint savings opportunities simply by spending less. Be sure to communicate with your staff about where these savings opportunities are, which brings us to #11.
- Establish protocol for spending money and create incentives for savings. We’re not advocating an office culture resembling financial despotism. In fact, nonprofits that foster a community of trust find that it’s greatly rewarded when employees can act as independent agents and feel comfortable making discretionary spending decisions. In order to get employees to that place of comfort (and to ensure they are making the right decisions about money), talk openly about the values of how your nonprofit saves money and spends it on the daily. Rather than discouraging employees on spending, encourage them to be resourceful with what is already available.
- Diversify your revenue streams. This may sound like a money-making tip, but looking at it from the other side of the coin is important, too. What if your annual fundraising event doesn’t do as well one year or your biggest donor decides to move on? Having several revenue streams is a way to hedge your bets on the success of any single one in any given year.
- Always review invoices and make sure there aren’t mistakes that you’re paying for. When you’re paying invoices for goods or services, don’t accept them blindly. Your vendors and providers are human, too, and humans are prone to mistakes. It’s worth it for you and your staff, especially the money managers, to be diligently detail-oriented.
Nonprofits save money by protecting against unexpected and catastrophic expenses
- Protect your online data and resources. Invest in cybersecurity measures that fit your organization’s needs. Some cybersecurity companies, like Symantec, offer nonprofits discounts. Regardless of the savings offered on the front end, investing in protection could save organizations time, money, and sensitive data in the long-run.
- Be sure to get insurance against natural disasters. Create backups of paper files and records – online if possible. Maximize your nonprofit’s savings by getting new bids each year to ensure that you’re getting the best insurance rates.
Nonprofits save money by seeking out deals
- Take advantage of credit card rewards. We do it in our personal lives, and in the same way, credit card rewards can offer sweet deals to companies, too. Global nonprofits save money with travel rewards cards. Cash back rewards are a great perk across the board.
- Take advantage of the nonprofit rate for snail mail. When paper mailings are absolutely necessary, be sure to check out USPS’s Postal Explorer program for nonprofits.
- Take advantage of borrowed or low-rent office space for nonprofits. This will take a quick internet search or survey of your area to see if there are spaces already dedicated for this purpose. If not, create your own network of office buildings that will rent or lend space to nonprofits!
- Take advantage of free resources. Many large companies will donate furniture or technology hardware that is still in good condition. Reach out and make some nearby corporate partner friends. It’s a win-win situation – you are able to save on office supplies while they are able to reduce waste and help a neighbor out.
- Take advantage of group purchasing. Group purchasing is like buying in bulk – you are able to team up with other businesses who have similar needs so that the suppliers can afford to offer deep discounts. CoAction is a group purchasing organization that serves the nonprofit sector for just this reason. There are thousands of products by hundreds of household name brands. In full disclosure, we are a partner of CoAction and would be honored to serve you discounts on office supplies and furniture, janitorial supplies, tech hardware, merchandise, and more. It’s completely free to join.
Nonprofits save money by asking for discounts
- Check to see if you qualify for sales tax refunds. Though you aren’t automatically exempt from paying sales tax as a nonprofit, some states do offer refunds. If your state offers this benefit, apply through the revenue office
- Ask your bank what offers there are for nonprofits. Will they give you a break on interest rates or late fees if you demonstrate strong repayment habits after a certain amount of time? Is there a free checking account option? What about credit cards with low APRs?
- Always ask for the nonprofit discount. Read more about our thoughts on this by visiting our Power of the Ask blog post.
If you’d like a short cut, we’ve done some of the asking for you. Browse nonprofitrate.com to find other discounts on office essentials and innovative apps.