7 Ways to Cut Organizational Expenses in Changing Times

During hard and changing times nonprofits may find it necessary to cut costs. Here are 7 tips to help with difficult decisions.

COVID-19 has meant we have been dealing with a significant period of uncertainty putting a huge strain on people’s mental wellbeing. As we wonder what comes next the press is full of predictions on the economic impact. We know it’s going to be bad, what we don’t yet know is how bad. With non-profit organizations already feeling the impact of losing large amounts of fundraising income, the inevitable cost-cutting comes next.

So what can you do when the spotlight is turned on you and your teams?

Let’s talk about office space and cost savings

One thing proven in the last few months is that office space is not always essential. Sure, there will be people who have a preference for working in the office but large swathes of us have now created home office set-ups that mean we can work effectively without the daily commute.

Tip #1 – Office Space Savings

Survey your teams to understand their preferences. Build up an understanding of what’s essential and what’s not. Could you have a smaller space and company retreats every few months as an alternative?

Cheaper is not always better

And this is important. If your donation forms convert poorly do they have value? How much money are you leaving on the table by not being able to add a Facebook retargeting pixel? Or being able to test and optimize your donation forms? Sure, it may not be costing you a lot of money but if you can’t offer an experience that motivates and inspires supporters to give to your organization don’t be surprised when their donations go elsewhere.

Tip #2 – Don’t Drop Your Optimization Efforts for Cost Savings

Make sure you have a testing and optimization strategy for your donation forms and that this is ongoing. Small changes can make a big difference in conversion rates.

Consider your partners

Who are the people who are continuing to invest and innovate even in these challenging times? Who is there at the end of the phone able to help and support you? When was the last time you spoke to your partners and asked them to take you through new features and products they can offer?

Tip #3 – Maintain Partner Relationships

Know what your goals are, for example, you want to grow income by x%, convert x% of single donors to regular donors or… introduce new activities. First of all, speak to your existing suppliers, you never know if this may be something they already offer and can add to your existing package at a small cost. Also, if you need to cut costs, consider scaling back but not cancelling work altogether.

Remove inefficiencies

I have lost track of the number of organizations that don’t even realize they are being inefficient. For example, the campaigns team uses one email tool, comms another and the fundraising team are using something else they like. Because everyone is focused on their team’s needs rather than looking at the bigger picture, all of a sudden there are three suppliers to manage, three data feeds and specific training needed on each product. That’s before you even consider the data and compliance risks. You will save costs through consolidating.

Tip #4 – Consolidate Systems Where Possible

Do a software audit and consolidate your suppliers where possible. There will be winners and losers here. But using a system that does it all compared to losing a member of your team through redundancy has to be a good outcome, right? Engaging Networks may be able to help you with that by the way.

Don’t fear outsourcing

We are at a point in time where we need to switch gears. The ways we’ve always done things are no longer working and a fresh perspective is needed. Outsourcing allows you to hire the person you need, when you need them, without spending money on a full-time salary with benefits. Contract workers have to regularly compete for jobs and so they’re likely to be creative, responsible, and keep their knowledge and skills updated.

Tip #5 – Determine What you Can Outsource Successfully

Some tasks and projects lend themselves to outsourcing better than others. Think carefully about what you want to outsource and avoid areas that need a personal touch. Identify projects that don’t fit with the core skills and competencies you have within the team and can be done inexpensively.

People matter

Cutting staff is not an easy option. You can’t really forecast the impact on morale or output, but the loss of key relationships and operational knowledge is guaranteed to set you back. More importantly, how you treat people becomes part of your organization’s DNA. Plus, think of all the recruitment costs when you have to hire people once the economy takes an upturn.

Tip # – Only let People Go When Necessary

Unless you’ve got teams that duplicate each other’s work creating internal silo’s and facilitating inefficiency, look elsewhere for savings. Before laying people off consider offering part-time work so people remain with the organization and you retain motivation and momentum.

Be kind to yourself

We could never have predicted the situation we have found ourselves in today, it’s not something we could have planned for or protected against.

Tip #7 – We’re Only Human – Now More Than Ever

Take your holidays and regular breaks in your workday. Just because you can’t go away does not mean you shouldn’t have some time away from your inbox. Bake a cake, sit in the garden, go to the park. Find joy in the small things and recognize, this time will pass.

I’d love to hear about other ideas and suggestions you have that could be added to this list. Please send any suggestions to me any time.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Emily has worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 2019, working on a range of campaign areas to empower people with vision impairments to live the life they choose. Prior to this, Emily working in parliament and severed as a borough councillor.

Brani Milosevic ia a digital consultant and coach at https://www.digitalleadership.ltd/
She helps individuals, teams and organisations to learn how to seize the opportunities offered by digital and navigate its challenges.
Brani set up the Digital Leadership Forum, is an NCVO trainer, a CharityComms mentor and a qualified executive coach.

Rhiannan Sullivan is the Vice President of strategy and partnerships of social action network, Care2.com. Over the past 10+ years, she has worked with hundreds of UK and EU charities helping them grow and develop their digital fundraising programmes. Prior to working for Care2, Rhiannan worked at then political campaigning agency Blue State Digital, a global leading digital strategy agency who has helped many organisations build and engage online communities, clients included political and advocacy campaigns, non-­‐profit organisations, cultural institutions and global consumer brands.

Calum manages social, email and some digital campaigns at CPRE, and is CPRE’s expert Engaging Networks user, working on development and helping other teams make the most of the platform. Happiest working on campaigns for change or rambling around in the countryside.

Brandon Fuller is Engaging Networks alumni and owner of Raise the Roots, a digital agency that has supported over two dozen organizations on Engaging Networks - helping them to maximize their digital engagement using this powerful platform. He previously managed global online advocacy campaigns for the Pew Charitable Trusts and has worked in the nonprofit community for nearly two decades.

I joined the Woodland Trust in 2018 and now lead on policy and engagement campaigns working to improve protection, restoration and high quality creation of woods and trees. Prior to campaigning for trees, I worked in Peterborough, tackling fuel poverty in the community. I care deeply about the climate and nature crises and the many, intersectional impacts and solutions. Endlessly inspired and energised by the dedication and passion of our supporters and the public who take action time and time again.

Hannah Mudge is Digital Innovation Manager at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and has had the privilege of seeing the 147-year-old international development charity evolve over the last decade, from sending out its first online fundraising appeal to achieving record levels of income despite the challenges faced since the start of the pandemic. She is based in Peterborough and enjoys running, cooking and reading in her limited spare time when not parenting two lively boys. During 2020 she added ‘homeschooling’ to her skillset although what Ofsted rating she would achieve is probably best left to the imagination.

I am a campaigner in the Woods Under Threat team at the Woodland Trust. My role is to help protect ancient woods and trees from damaging developments across the UK. Ancient woods and trees are irreplaceable, so we work hard to stop any further loss of these precious habitats and ensure they are protected for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Matt Strong is the Campaigns and Engagement Officer for the Ramblers.

He has recently run campaigns on increasing the number of new green walking routes in some of our biggest cities, including London and Manchester. He has also been leading on the Ramblers’ campaigns work around the Environment Bill. Matt has a background in politics after spending a decade as an elected councillor on Manchester City Council and having previously worked for two Members of Parliament and a political party.

Claire Warner is a former charity Fundraising Director & Senior Leader, turned Culture & Wellbeing consultant.

It was in trying to throw herself back into her beloved Fundraising Director role after 12 months' treatment for aggressive breast cancer, that Claire realised the focus & memory loss and heart condition side effects she'd been left with after her treatment, plus the life-changing experience of the illness itself, meant (guttingly!) a 300% commitment, 50+hours a week Fundraising Director role was no longer an option.

On looking into what others do in this situation, Claire discovered the field of workplace wellbeing, the research work of Prof Cary Cooper, the Gallup Organisation and Simon Sinek, and hasn't looked back since.

In 2018, Claire created her own piece of research into the wellbeing of fundraisers and when it concluded in 2019, over 700 fundraisers had taken part. The results of the research were used to further inform and refine the work Claire does with organisations and individuals in the charity sector.

In 2020 Claire won the Best Digital Leader Award at the Social CEO Awards and in 2021 curated the first Charity Wellbeing Summit.

Today, Claire works on organisational culture and wellbeing projects with charities and offers coaching and mentoring programmes to sector professionals.

Becky has spent the last decade building people power and people-powered movements to hold the most powerful to account for a fairer, more just, and cleaner future.
She helped build 38 Degrees UK into a movement of over 1 million citizens and led many of the biggest campaigns. As part of OPEN’s senior team, she helped build and sustain a network across 19 different countries, by supporting, coaching, and building fast-growing digitally facilitated organisations.

She's currently Senior Strategist at The Sunrise Project leading the Global Banks Program and building grassroots activism on finance around the world. She’s on the board of Skiftet, Sweden’s biggest online campaign community and Left Foot Forward in the UK.

Andrew Taylor-Dawson is Development Manager at Liberty, where he leads on member and support engagement. He has been in fundraising for around 13 years. In this time he has worked in the human rights, homelessness and social justice sectors as well as having been a freelance consultant.

He has held board positions with Global Justice Now and the adoption support organisation We Are family.

Rebecca is a Digital Project Manager, who recently led the redesign and redevelopment of The Children's Society's website.

Rebecca worked closely with senior stakeholders, subject matter experts, and digital agencies to create a new platform that demonstrates the organisation's refreshed vision, mission and brand. There has already been astounding results in the 6-months since launch.

I have worked as a web developer for about 20 years and for Which? since 2015, primarily on their WordPress sites. This has involved integration with a variety of different APIs, most recently the Engaging Networks API, along with the creation of APIs to allow sites to talk to one another.

Glyn Thomas is a digital strategist and web developer. He built his first website in 1997 and has been working in digital communications since 2002.

For the past 12 years, Glyn has almost exclusively worked with charities and non-profit organisations. Almost all the projects he works on are focused around campaigning, fundraising or supporter recruitment, and often a mixture of all three.

Now based in Berlin, Glyn works with organisations in the UK, Europe and North America.

Rhian is the Strategic Programme Manager for Physical Activity at Versus Arthritis. Alongside Sport England under the Richmond Group ‘Movement for All’ programme, Rhian is co-developing a long-term, sustainable programme to support those living with Musculoskeletal conditions to increase their physical activity levels and improve their quality of life. Rhian has over 15 years’ experience of supporting people with long term health conditions to become more active. She is passionate about prevention, working in partnership and using an effective knowledge base to create impactful change at scale.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.