Every nonprofit can find ways to save money without making their work more challenging. Take a step back and review the following ten items and pick one you can start on.
- Take a look at your bank statement. Are they any charges you don’t know about? Payments for monthly services you don’t use anymore? Have someone take a few minutes and track down where those charges are coming from and get them canceled. I did this recently at a nonprofit, and quickly saved them hundreds of dollars per year.
- Are your computers current? Having modern technology is a huge money saver, as it saves a ton of time and aggravation. If you can’t afford new computers, ask a local bank or insurance company for a donation of older models. They’ll be a huge improvement and everyone will be happier and more productive. (And then make sure to run daily backups!)
- Use Tech Soup. Need to buy software or hardware for your nonprofit? Check the discounts at Tech Soup first, as they may have what you need for a much lower price. For example, a free Tech Soup membership gives you the Gsuite tools for free, including Gmail, or Office 365 with email for just $4.50 per month per user.
- Can you reduce your utility bills? Walk around your office space and investigate what is using electricity. At one nonprofit, I found an unused chest freezer that had been running for years! Ask your local utility company for an audit for more ideas.
- Reevaluate your expensive copier contract. Do you really need a full size copier? We are all printing less and less as more of our work goes digital. For the cost of one month of a lease, you can buy a heavy duty black and white laser printer for the majority of your printing, and a color all-in-one for scanning, color printing and faxing. The cost for laser printer toner is low and maintenance costs are minimal. Or, if you are locked into a lease, make sure the counts you are paying for make sense. One nonprofit was paying $100 extra per month for 1000 color copies, and only using about 50! Finally, big print jobs are cheaper to have a print company run.
- Ask for discounts any time you buy something. Lots of businesses will give discounts if you ask, and it adds up over time. Be sure to thank them regularly. Look for opportunities for donations that don’t cost the business much, if at all. One nonprofit was able to get a self storage unit donated, another had regular printing services donated or discounted. Other businesses give nonprofit discounts routinely. For example, Paypal has a lower fee for all nonprofits..
- Use a cash rewards credit card for all on-line purchases. Not only does a credit card protect your bank account assets, you’ll get 1-2% back on all your purchases, which adds over time.
- Take a hard look at your vendors. Are there cheaper options available? When gathering quotes for tech support for a nonprofit, I found rates ranging from $1000/month plus expensive hardware, to $150/month using existing hardware. This organization didn’t need fancy computers and guaranteed uptime, they just needed generally reliable computers and someone to answer their questions. They went with the cheaper option, which represented huge savings.
- Look for ways to work with other nonprofits. Can you share office space? Can you share a copier? How about a bookkeeper or a vehicle? Think about the things you feel you need, but don’t use regularly. A local nonprofit just combined space with another organization, saving hundreds of dollars per month on rent.
- Finally, the best way to save money is to save time. Invest in quality staff who are great at what they do, and make sure they have the resources to do it. The efficiency gains will make up for any additional costs. Evaluate what each person has to do and find ways to streamline the work, or eliminate unnecessary tasks. I helped one organization switch to using an online payroll company, rather than doing it all themselves in QuickBooks. There was an added cost, but it freed staff up from worrying about paying payroll taxes. In addition, it simplified the payroll process greatly, allowing the executive director to focus on leading the organization.
All organizations will have overhead costs, but it is worth taking the time to look at how you are spending your money and challenging your assumptions of what you “need”. This post should spark some ideas. Please add your additional ideas in the comments below.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-2532 for all your nonprofit questions. I am happy to offer a free hour consultation to any organization in the United States.