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Meals on Wheels was recently called out by the White House’s budget chief as “just not showing any results.”
This, of course, is not true. What is true is that a nonprofit’s outcomes must be positioned in the right context to the right audience. Here we have a major funder, the federal government, that has not seen the results they want to see.
Meals on Wheels produces solid outcomes, has had independent studies prove its effectiveness, creates very thorough infographics and does all the things a nonprofit of its stature should be doing.
Yet in the context of the current administration, these are not the results that they are looking for. The GOP — which controls the executive branch, Congress, the Senate, 33 state governorships, 69 of 99 state legislative bodies and soon likely the Supreme Court — has a very narrow viewpoint of what should constitute a social safety net and where and how the every dollar should be spent.
The results that the White House and many Republican-controlled state legislatures want to see can be narrowed down to two core outcomes:
- For every $1 spent on this activity, it generates $2 in new tax savings elsewhere.
- For every $1 spent on this activity, it generates $2 in new tax revenue elsewhere.
If your nonprofit can’t fit at least one of these into metrics then, frankly, you should consider your government funding at risk. The better you can fit into one of these two metrics the more likely you can define your organization as a budget priority.
In Meals on Wheels’ two-page infographic for 2017, there is only one small section that relates to the savings Meals on Wheels provides to its funder, the federal government. It states that its clients report fewer falls, which saves the government $31,000,000,000.
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Elsewhere in the infographic its says $1,458,512,577 is spent on its nutrition program. Which means that for every $1 spent on Meals on Wheels’ nutrition program, it generates $21 in savings to the government.
This is the outcome they need to be shouting from the rooftop, and with a deeper dive into the nonprofit’s financials, you can probably tease out an even better ROI than $1:$21.
Nonprofits have many different types of funders, all of whom are looking for the outcomes that speak to them in the context that excites them. While feeding millions of food-insecure seniors may pull on the heartstrings of individual donors and foundations, from the perspective of an increasingly conservative government that in Florida is planning to remove 230,000 people from food stamps because its views every tax dollar as “sacred,” you must be able to prove that your nonprofit is effective in that context.-30-
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