ENGin's Finances: The Full Picture
This page offers a detailed overview of ENGin's finances and answers to all fundraising-related questions. We've done our best to be fully transparent because we want you to feel 100% comfortable making a donation to our organization. If there is anything else you'd like to know after reading this page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where do nonprofits get funding?
Nonprofits typically raise money in one of three ways:
(1) They are launched by wealthy or well-connected people who use their personal networks to secure funding.
(2) They tap into existing sources of grant funding (usually locally- or regionally-focused foundation or government grants).
(3) They fundraise from people in their communities who support their mission.
We aren't wealthy or well-connected. And, we haven't found existing sources of grant funding that we qualify for (though we have looked thoroughly and continue to look!). So, we are turning to our community for support.
How have you been funding the program so far?
ENGin was launched as a small personal project to help a few dozen students. A generous individual donor learned about us shortly after launch and provided seed funding to scale the program.
Our seed funding covers costs through the end of 2022. This extremely generous investment gave us the breathing room to build an strong program and demonstrate impact before trying to fundraise on our own. Now, however, we are responsible for securing our own funding to continue operating and growing.
How much does it cost to run the program?
We need $400,000 for 2023. This is our minimum viable budget to continue running the program as is without substantial improvements.
The good news is that our founding donor will match everything we raise, which cuts our target to $200,000.
How much have you already raised?
We've raised over $90,000 from individuals, corporations, and organizations. Well over half of that amount comes from our incredible volunteers (either direct donations or referrals). While we have done a lot of cold outreach, success almost always stems from an introduction or personal contact.
What do you spend money on?
Our budget is tiny compared to those of similar nonprofit organizations. We keep costs low by hiring the majority of team members in Ukraine and working with primarily entry-level employees. We hire in the US only when a Ukrainian candidate would not be able to do the job. The majority of our expenses are program staff, who keep ENGin running day-to-day. Here is the breakdown of our costs:
2 full-time senior team members in the US (CEO and volunteer manager, who oversees current volunteer experience as well as volunteer partnerships and recruitment): $115,000, including payroll taxes.
3 full-time senior-level staff in Ukraine (head of customer service team, head of onboarding process, head of partnerships and communications): $60,000
8 onboarding team members in Ukraine, working 30 hours/week (process applications/manage database, interview every applicant, run student orientations, match students to volunteers): $62,000
2 part-time US-based volunteer trainers (train all new volunteers): $7,000
1 part-time US-based outreach assistant (helps recruit new volunteers): $8,000
6 team members supporting current students and volunteers: 3 full-time customer service agents, 1 full-time volunteer certification specialist, 1 head of teaching and learning, and 1 student community manager: $64,000
3 members of the communications/partnership management team, working 20-30 hours/week (manage 100+ partnerships in Ukraine and develop new partnerships, manage all social media accounts, media relations, website, biweekly student emails, all design needs): $27,500
1 developer (full-time): $36,000
1 accountant in Ukraine: $4,500
We also have $20,000 in annual technology costs, including hosting for our platform and participant database (Azure), our website, Zoom and Calendly accounts for ENGin events, ConstantContact for emails to our community, etc. Other admin costs are $2,500 - primarily bank fees/ wire transfer costs.
How do you determine appropriate salaries for employees?
It's a difficult balancing act. On one hand, we try to be frugal, because our budget is so limited. On the other hand, we want to avoid exploiting our hardworking team members, most of whom are Ukrainians placed in a vulnerable position by the war.
There's also the basic reality of supply and demand - if salaries fall below a certain point, we can't find qualified people willing to take the jobs. There are few fluent English speakers in Ukraine, and we're competing for this talent with multinational corporations and IT firms who pay much higher salaries. Attracting and retaining qualified people has been a perennial challenge for us.
Our salaries are currently on the lower end for both US and Ukraine, and we hope to be able to raise them in future.
Why do you need paid staff? Why not volunteers?
It's very typical for nonprofits that run their own programs to rely on paid employees, with volunteers playing a supporting role.
Volunteers don't want to work for free 30-40 hours/week, especially to do the complex operational tasks that make up the bulk of our work. And, in any case, it would be exploitative to ask someone to work close to full-time without paying them.
We've always relied on our amazing volunteers for tasks that can be divided into smaller, flexible pieces among many people, each working a few hours/week. We truly couldn't run ENGin without our volunteers' contributions! But unfortunately, most ENGin tasks require a much bigger time commitment than volunteers can give. We've experimented a lot with this and have learned the hard way about what volunteers can and can't do.
And, remember, even for projects where volunteers can help, we need staff who will oversee and support their work.
And the technology costs? Are they really necessary?
Yes! When we are dealing with thousands of active students and volunteers, it is impossible to manage them by hand. We launched with 2 simple spreadsheets - one for students and one for volunteers. Within months, we were overwhelmed by trying to manually manage them.
Why? Remember, we have over a dozen possible statuses for participants (which differ by student and volunteer), and people's statuses change every day. We have hundreds of applications coming in every week, 700+ interviews scheduled weekly, thousands of emails and reminders sent to everyone based on their status, hundreds of matches to make each week, etc.
Can't you cut costs in any way?
If we were facing a small funding gap of, say $10,000-, making small cuts could be a reasonable way to cover it. However, we can't cut much deeper than that without betraying our mission.
ENGin exists to transform Ukraine by reaching 100,000 students or more. Scale is part of our DNA and what makes us different from any other organization out there. We're not here to run a small project - others have done that, and while they've helped the few hundred people they've reached, they also shut out the vast majority of interested students. And, their small size prevents them from making a nationwide impact.
Have you tried applying for grants from foundations?
Yes, we've contacted several hundred foundations. We received one grant, from a foundation that reached out to us due to a personal recommendation by a volunteer.
We continue to seek out and apply for grants, but we are barely seeing any opportunities that we are eligible for, and the chances of receiving a grant without personal contacts are negligible.
What about the US government? There's a ton of funding going to Ukraine now.
We've tried reaching out to the State Department and the US Embassy, the two relevant government agencies. We are registered on grants.gov, the clearinghouse for all federal grants. Without personal connections, our prospects are not great.
How about the Ukrainian-American community?
We've tried to fundraise extensively in the Ukrainian-American diaspora, but people are tapped out by the war and focused almost exclusively on humanitarian and military support. We got a few small grants, all through personal contacts.
Why don't you hire a professional fundraiser/development director?
We have tried. Unfortunately, these professionals generally work with existing donor networks - without contacts to fundraise from or a range of foundations to seek funding from, there isn't much they can do.
Should students be paying for the program?
Many students donate to ENGin. However, our students are young people living in a country decimated by war (and the Ukrainian currency is very weak compared to the dollar). Thus, student donations cover a tiny fraction of our costs.
Requiring students to pay to participate in ENGin, especially with a war raging, would be a very controversial move, one that most students and many volunteers would not support.
If you're thinking of it, we've probably tried it. We've spoken to close to 20 fundraising professionals and collected dozens of ideas. We are truly trying everything.
Ok, that was a lot. So, what do you want from me?
We think that ENGin's future should be determined by the quality of our work, not whether we know the "right" people. With the support of our community, we know we can keep our program going. If you believe in our mission, here's how you can help:
Make a tax-deductible donation here if you are able
Host an online or in-person fundraiser for ENGin (if you're on Facebook, you can create an online fundraiser here)
Share ENGin with any organizations where you have contacts - companies, clubs, faith-based organizations, etc. Ask them about possibilities for grants or donations.
Thank you for supporting ENGin!