It’s time for a fresh look at funding for ministry overhead.
Recently, I got an email from Ministry Watch listing the top international evangelistic ministries. The list included Wycliffe Bible Translators, Mission to the World, Pioneers, Ethnos360, SIM USA, World Help, TEAM, etc. Their revenues were listed from $200 million to $40 million, respectively.
Sometimes people see those big numbers and it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that those organizations are flush with cash.
For years the supposed gold standard for ministry efficiency has been that an organization should never spend more than 10% on overhead. I’ve often heard the cry, “I don’t want to pay for overhead!”
In the case of the international organizations, it’s the missionaries to the field, for instance, that are considered direct impact. People want to pay for that. But those missionaries need training, support, materials and community. Where does it come from? A home office. A central hub. That backbone to a ministry takes overhead.
And overhead is not inherently bad. Perhaps we should not call it overhead. Maybe it’s better to call it support or even better, “the engine.” So if we fund the engine, and make sure it hums, we allow the field to grow, expand, and get the results that everyone desires.
So I’m thinking we stop making overhead some automatic disqualification and instead a necessary part of the conversation. What would happen if more funders would ask, how can I make the engine better to make the field better?
Photo by Jose Lebron on Unsplash
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Published September 16, 2020