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Helping Charities Thrive Through Mythbusting!

Ready to start making philanthropy a part of your financial plan? What better way to express gratitude for the great efforts of your favorite charities than by making a donation. The decision on how much and which charities to donate to can be a difficult one. Continue reading to learn more about one of six common charitable giving myths uncovered by Blue Ocean Giving.

Helping Charities Thrive Through Mythbusting!

Guest post by Andrew Stegemann, CEO of Blue Ocean Giving, a company that brings you clarity on how to best support the causes you love so you can make charitable giving a financial pillar for you and your family (or your business). Interested in learning more?

How can we do the most for the causes we love? It starts by changing some common misconceptions. There are myths we’ve been taught to believe about the charitable sector that are actually undermining the causes we love. We’ve identified six myths in total, and will review one of the worst offenders here.

The Overhead Myth: There is a stubbornly persistent myth that “Overhead is bad and only charities with low overhead are worth giving to”. I can say with some confidence that no other myth has undermined the effectiveness of charities more.

Let’s consider some factors that charities weave together to make positive impact. Here’s a few:

  • Talented staff and good leadership,
  • Data to inform good decisions,
  • Technology to make an issue relevant to people so they will act,
  • Communications to drive awareness and fundraising,
  • A healthy work culture… and more

Consider the last one. We know good workspaces are critical for businesses. There’s nothing like a negative work environment to encourage high turnover, low productivity and moody Mondays. It’s the same for charities prioritizing a culture of hope, determination, and happy people. All these things matter. And all of them take overhead: investing in a healthy office space, providing staff benefits or team building opportunities… overhead. Indeed, depending on who you ask, all the things on the list above are considered overhead (another problem is there is no one definition for overhead that everyone agrees on).

Now, imagine that you’re the CEO of a charity facing some very common problems:

Problem: Talented staff keep leaving because they can’t live on charity wages. Solution: Raise the wages, right? But… Wages are often considered ‘overhead’, and donors won’t give if you have too much overhead. So… turnover persists, and resources are drained due to constant hiring and training.

Problem: Your charity is effective locally, and you’re ready to amplify your impact but need more resources to do so. You consider hiring a fundraiser. But… Fundraising costs are ‘overhead’. So… You keep yourself small by making small donation appeals citing the ‘low overhead’ you have as a positive, which perpetuates the overhead myth suffocating all charities.

I have spoken to countless charity leaders who are demoralized by keeping overhead low because it makes them less effective. But donors demand it. So, charities act against their own interest, and promote their low overhead to donors as if it’s a benefit.

And the cycle continues.

We encourage people to reframe this myth away from, overhead is bad to understanding that charities use ‘overhead’ as key inputs to create change.

This is just one example of a myth that, once re-stated, helps us give more effectively. In addition to some of this mythbusting, Blue Ocean Giving also uncovers principles for effective giving to inform your giving choices, and can guide you through a fun conversation to identify the causes you most care about in order to co-create your customized portfolio of charities that you love and will be excited to support!

We believe people want to give more, but are unsure of how to do so. We created Blue Ocean Giving to help you get unstuck and to make giving an intentional and electric experience! Ready to make a lifelong difference? Let’s take the next step together.


If you’d like to discuss this topic in greater detail or have any questions, please reach out to a member of your Arbutus Financial Team.

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