How much of my dollar goes towards educating girls?

sign on wall saying 'Ask More Questions'

Here’s a question we get asked a lot: “How much of my hard-earned money will actually help the girls and women in Africa?”

People don’t always put it that way – often they ask things like: “How much money gets spent on Admin? How much on Fundraising? On Operations?” Basically they’re trying to work out if their money will actually make an impact.

And that’s a question worth asking.

If you’re one of our supporters, you deserve to know how your money is being used. And if you’re fundraising for us, you can be sure people will ask you these kinds questions – because understanding how a charity spends its donors’ money tells you a lot about the charity itself.

We know – the land of accounting, financials and costings is not everybody’s destination of choice. But don’t worry – we promise this isn’t going to be one of those kinds of articles. And if you regularly donate to any charities or causes – not just ours – knowing about these things will help you make more informed decisions about where to donate.

Let’s start with the most straightforward part:

PROGRAMS

Of all the donations we receive, about 70% goes directly to our four girl-focused programs. This is the money we spend on educating girls and women in Sierra Leone and Uganda.

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Here is one of our scholars with some of the items she receives as part of her Scholarship Pack – including a school bag, exercise books, text books and more!

There are raw costs, such as paying school fees, books, bags, uniforms, construction materials for schools, sanitary pads, etc. And there are also the costs for our own programs team and our partners on the ground – the organisations that actually run our educational programs, like detailed monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the programs are actually HAVING the desired impact.

These are the kinds of cost people are happy to see, because they are most clearly aligned with our mission to educate and empower women and girls.

But what about the rest? How do we spend the remaining 30%?

That gets split between admin and fundraising costs. Yep – the ones people have trouble with. And trust us, we get it. We’ve all heard stories of charity CEOs getting paid massive salaries, or money being wasted – the things that make us lose trust.

Yet there’s nothing inherently bad about admin and fundraising costs. Sure if they’re very high it’s probably a sign that an organization is badly run. But equally, if they’re too low – and this might surprise you – there’s a good chance things aren’t going well either.

But responsible spending on admin and fundraising is as essential to achieving our mission as spending on programs. Here’s why:

ADMIN COSTS

These costs cover things like rent, insurance, printing and stationery, bank fees and a proportion of salaries. Not sexy – but all essential.

Let’s look at an example of an admin cost – our annual audit. When charities get to a certain size, they’re required to have an independent, objective review of all their financial reports and processes. Because our board believes strongly in transparency and good governance, we’ve been audited since we began.

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Last year we paid $5,700 to our auditors McLean Delmo Bentleys to ensure that all our finances are above board. That’s a chunk of money that you wouldn’t necessarily consider was going towards educating girls – but it helps us be accountable to YOU, our donors. It tells you that we are financially responsible and that you can trust us. It also means we’re eligible for a fundraising license – a pretty important document! – AND that we can apply for grants, which often must be supported by audited accounts. So while this is a significant cost – it’s an essential one.

FUNDRAISING COSTS

Our biggest fundraising expense is our Do It In A Dress campaign. If you’ve heard about this campaign – it’s because we’ve created its own website, purchased custom school dresses, designed and printed brochures, posters and booklets, and invested in Facebook marketing.

And it’s important to do these things well. Imagine if you found us through a flakey website, or a saw a badly printed poster advertising Do It In A Dress? Would you still have faith in us? Would you trust that we were really doing a good job with our programs? Would you be inspired to support us? Or what if we didn’t invest money in promoting the campaign at all? You might never have heard of it and the campaign would not have gotten off the ground at all.

We’re lucky to receive support from a bunch of companies (web development companies, printers, designers, production companies, social media experts) that work on the campaign at pro bono or low bono rates, not to mention our brilliant team of volunteers who help run the campaign for three months… but we also have to invest money, to make money.

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As an example, we’ve recruited and trained 200 Ambassadors across Australia to become our lead fundraisers and advocates for the Do It In A Dress campaign. It costs us approximately $16,000 to run the Ambassador training program around Australia, including creating training materials, interstate flights, accommodation, room hire for the workshop, catering, taxis to the airport etc. But last year, thanks to that training, our incredible Ambassadors went on to raise $285,444. That means for every $5.65 we invested in the Ambassador training program, we were returned $100.

By investing money in fundraising campaigns, we reach more people, inspire more people to sign up, and ultimately raise more money. All of which means we can reach and educate more girls.

SALARIES

Salaries typically get allocated to both fundraising and administration. One Girl has eight paid staff members (meet the team here!). Five of us work full time, and three of us work part time. No-one at One Girl earns a six figure salary – not even our CEO.

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Paying people a salary means they turn up, day after day, to raise money, spread awareness, and deliver programs. A volunteer organisation can only get so far, and our staff are no different to everyone else – we all need a roof over our heads and food on the table!

In the beginning our co-founders, Chantelle and Dave, spent three years working for free to get One Girl off the ground. And they learned the hard way how unsustainable that was.

So they invested in the growth of the organisation by investing in the people behind it – they started paying themselves a salary, and they brought on a small team to help them grow the organisation. That’s the reason we are the organisation we are today.

The expertise of our passionate team is what’s helping One Girl expand the reach of our educational programs. By paying them a salary they can commit long-term to One Girl. And that’s what we need, because the kind of cultural shift we’re working towards through educating girls in Africa won’t happen overnight.

We have a huge vision to educate and empower 1 million girls across Africa.

That means we need to grow our fundraising. We need to expand our community of supporters and inspire more people to join us. We need to invest in bigger programs. We need to make sure we’re transparent and accountable so that people trust that we’re doing what we say we’re going to do – and support us!

We don’t receive any government funding to run our projects, and while we do have some philanthropic support, the overwhelming majority of our donations come from our community. That’s people donating $20, $50, $100 once a year or once a month. That’s people giving up their birthdays to fundraise for One Girl. That’s passionate business owners and entrepreneurs donating a percentage of profits or sales. That’s people putting on a school dress and doing all kinds of crazy challenges through Do It In A Dress.

We know how much time, energy and love goes into every single dollar donated to us. We don’t take it lightly and we never take it for granted.

That’s why our manifesto says – “We Make Every Dollar Count”

If you’re fundraising or donating to a charity, it’s incredibly important to understand how they use the money supporters donate and to ask questions about fundraising, salary and admin costs. But it’s equally important to understand the role those costs play in an organisation achieving its mission.

Right from the beginning we’ve strived to create what co-founder, Chantelle Baxter, called an ‘organisation with glass walls’. We work incredibly hard to make sure every single dollar we receive is put to work to improve the lives of the girls we support. Are we perfect? Absolutely not. We sometimes make mistakes. Not everything works out as we plan. But we don’t hide those mistakes. We share what we learn and we do better the next time.

If you have any questions for us please – get in touch. We’ll be happy to chat.

If you want to understand more about the way charity spending really works, check out this fantastic TED talk, and of course you can check out all of our audited financial reports here.

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