Donors Forum to Host National Conversation on Real Costs

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Donors Forum's leadership on Real Costs has energized the national discussion, and other leaders will gather here on Oct. 6 to share information about efforts and explore areas in which to collaborate.

Donors Forum’s Real Cost Strategic Initiative, focused on ensuring nonprofits clearly articulate -- and foundations cover -- the real costs that support nonprofit missions to achieve specified results, has gained national attention for leading this important conversation in Illinois. As part of this work, Donors Forum will host a national conversation on Tues., Oct. 6 with leaders from organizations across the country that are involved in this work.

Joining us here at Donors Forum will be leaders from Guidestar, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), Inside NGO, the Real Costs Project in California, and other national organizations. The group will share information about efforts and explore areas in which to collaborate.

This meeting comes a few days before I present the keynote address on Donors Forum's Real Costs work at the West Virginia Nonprofit Leadership Summit, a joint conference of the state's nonprofit and grantmaker associations.

Four years ago, Donors Forum’s Real Talk About Real Costs Community of Practice was a national model for starting the conversation around real costs. Now, this work is continuing with our Real Cost Strategic Initiative, which aims to develop clear action steps for moving foundations and nonprofits toward honest conversations about real costs and business practices that allow overhead costs to be adequately covered. The Real Costs Strategic Initiatives Working Group is currently collecting responses to our Real Cost Survey from grantmakers and nonprofits in Illinois to understand current attitudes and practices related to this conversation. (If you have not yet filled out the survey, please do so by Fri., Sept. 25.)

We will share with you the next steps that come out of the Oct. 6 national conversation, and incorporate that work into our efforts here in Illinois. The next meeting of Donors Forum’s Real Cost Strategic Initiative Working Group is Tues., Nov. 3 from 2:30 - 4:00 pm. If you are interested in attending, email me at at

-- Doug Schenkelberg, Vice President, Policy and Strategy, Donors Forum