7 Tips for Scaling Back Your Nonprofit’s Expenses

No matter the size of your nonprofit, every organization experiences a low point in either their revenue or funding sometime throughout the year.

In order to stay afloat, you need to find some options for scaling back your expenses.

This list is designed to give you some of the best tips and tricks that your nonprofit can use to cut down on your overhead costs and better prepare for your future.

1. Review Expenses

Reevaluating your expenses should be something you do on a quarterly basis, if not more often. If you need to save money now, you better start channeling your inner Marie Kondo and get to cutting down on those expenses that don’t “spark joy” anymore.

One trick you can use is to ask yourself what the ROI is on all your expenses. If you’re not familiar, ROI is the Return on Investment. If you’re not seeing a positive ROI with a vendor or a certain department, cut it and allocate those funds elsewhere.

This can also pertain to attending events or community efforts. If they aren’t helping or you’ve exhausted your outreach, it’s time to move on and try something new.

2. Assess Campaigns

If you’re still using mailing campaigns, double check your performance on them. If it’s not good, it’s time to get rid of them.

The reason you should ditch the mailing campaigns is because the opportunity for social media has never been better for nonprofits. According to Double the Donation, online donations are up almost 25% since last year. Plus, 38% of donors that donated the previous year are bound to donate again the following year.

There’s almost no reason to waste money on paper anymore.

If you mail thank you cards to donors for donations and gifts, you can email them instead. There’s been an increase in nonprofits going paperless and so far the results have been positive for their image.        

3. Invest in Software

One way to cut costs is to change the process of how a job is done by turning to a software alternative.

For example, one area that nonprofits spend a lot on is manually entering in receipts and invoices. The process is tedious and time consuming.

With software like Expensify, you can cut down 80% of the time it takes to enter receipts and invoices by simply taking a photo. That lowers costs and increases time for your organization to spend elsewhere.

Looking for cheaper alternatives isn’t subject to expense management; you can look for software that requires you to do less work for other duties in your organization as well.

4. Use Volunteers and Interns

Everyone needs to start somewhere and what more advantageous way than to use interns and volunteers?

There’s a tradeoff with interns. In return for college credit and experience, you get someone with raw knowledge who will need supervision to apply it to your organization. For the recruitment process, you can post to job boards and college career pages or attend job fairs. Advertise how helping your nonprofit can be beneficial for their future.

As for volunteers, they’re harder to retain than paid employees and interns. Since they’re using their own free time, you don’t want to waste it. You’ll need to incorporate a volunteer program with a volunteer coordinator who informs the volunteers of what their role is and how they should do their job.

Don’t forget that social media is perfect for raising awareness for your nonprofit as well as asking people if they would like to volunteer or work for an internship.

5. Employ People

Having employees doesn’t sound very cost-effective for an organization wanting to save money. However, employing people can be one of the best ways to lower costs.

Think about it, most volunteers can only do so much on their own dime, even with incentives. The reason why most for-profit businesses want to lower their turn-over rates is because the cost of repeatedly training new people adds up. If you’re having to show new volunteers how to run events or complete internal tasks, that equates to time, energy, and money on your part.

You need a team that knows your organization inside and out and who can take the workload off your shoulders. By paying someone a salary, you can wind up saving yourself effort and money.

6. Thrift Stores and Donations

If you need to furnish your nonprofit or find supplies for an event, the best place to start penny pinching is in thrift stores. There’s no guarantee you’ll find what you need so bring your creativity and repurpose what’s available.

Asking for donations is another option. If you’re looking for chairs or desks, sometimes people or for-profit businesses have furniture or other office supplies laying around they want to get rid of. As a nonprofit, if you communicate your needs to the public, people will want to assist you as best they can. You just need to start by asking.

7. More Transparent Culture

Some organizations don’t like to admit they are having to cut back on their budget. They might worry their staff will start looking for new jobs. However, if you tell your staff they need to cut back on waste and start using less paper, you might find they have cost-cutting ideas as well.

Think of ways you and your staff can come up with some ideas on how to save. Most departments know their expenses and can find creative ways to cut back if needed.


Don’t forget when you’re scaling down your expenses to be careful not to cut out something that’s essential. You might feel like you have to downsize before it gets worse. Maybe all you need to do is to reevaluate your expenses and find ways to implement cost-effective measures. Either way, the important message is that you should run on as little as you can while maximizing your donations and funding.

Campaigns, Expenses, Saving, Waste Management