The American Battlefield Trust has a long-standing track record of being an outstanding steward of donation dollars by upholding the highest standards for fiscal management, accountability, and transparency. For its fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2019, the Trust earned its tenth consecutive 4-star ranking from Charity Navigator, America’s leading charity evaluator, a level of recognition achieved by only 2 percent of nonprofits.
A full 84.6 percent of Trust expenses go to pay direct program costs for battlefield preservation and related education programs. The balance of 15.4 percent covers our general “core mission support” costs, which include fundraising expenses and various administrative costs such as staff salaries, office rent, IT support, insurance, etc. This fraction going to core mission support compares very favorably with, and in fact is lower than, many other nonprofits. The Trust pays these support costs using unrestricted funds (meaning funds that do not have donor-imposed restrictions on how they are used) generated from general donations, capital gifts, membership dues, and other sources.
In response to increasing demands from our supporters, the Trust is continuing to push to implement new and effective initiatives to further its mission. These include a range of innovative educational tools and programs that utilize the latest technology, additional interpretation and landscape restoration to make battlefield sites more attractive and meaningful to visitors, and new efforts to reach broader audiences and inspire more people to join the cause. These new initiatives, of course, require additional resources that strain the Trust’s financial capacity with existing funding streams.
Therefore, to responsibly sustain the success of the Trust and its essential purposes, the Trust may allocate a reasonable and appropriate amount of between 8 and 15.4 percent from restricted and/or designated donations of $10,000 or more, for core mission support.
This practice is consistent with the practices and policies of other nonprofits and is a best practice in the industry. Research shows that a lack of unrestricted funds to cover overhead is an industry-wide problem. Nonprofits are encouraged to proactively raise funds to sustain their operations and most donors are supportive of their funds being used to pay reasonable administrative costs necessary to support the funded programs. At the same time, many larger foundations that make grants to nonprofits are doing more to help grantees pay for rent, decent wages, technology, and other overhead. For example, the MacArthur Foundation announced plans to boost the amount it pays for grantees’ overhead to 29 percent starting in 2020 and the Ford Foundation raised its standard administrative allocation from 10 percent to 20 percent several years ago. The American Battlefield Trust held out from taking this step for as long as it could, but now believes it must join the others to meet increasing demands.
In all cases, the stated intent of the donor will control the use of the restricted donations and/or capital gifts when it comes to the purposes for which a donation or capital gift can be allocated. Therefore, if any donor explicitly states that a restricted donation and/or capital gift cannot be used to pay the Core Mission Support Allocation, such donation and/or capital gift will not be used for that purpose. The Trust will undertake good-faith, due diligent efforts to coordinate with the donor to discuss the Allocation and ultimately proceed according to the donor’s instructions. The Trust may also decide, on its own behalf, to forego applying a part of a restricted donation and/or capital gift toward the Core Mission Support Allocation, such as when a donation and/or capital gift is especially large and even a small percentage is no longer reasonable as determined by the Trust.
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