Money Matters, but People Matter the Most

Author  Erich Mische   on  08/30/2022 - 4:02pm

It is estimated there are more than 1.5 million non-profits in the United States.  In Minnesota, alone, there are well over 30,000 non-profits. 

It’s for this reason I tell people that Minnesota has more non-profits than lakes – a reflection of the kindness and compassion of the people that live in this state. 


Money Matters but People Matter the Most


With this many non-profits operating throughout the country there is no question that competition for resources exists at many levels. There is, of course, the competition for funds. And, those funds are used in many different ways. Funds to ensure that the mission of the organization is being carried out in the best possible way. Funds to pay for staff to execute efforts to support that mission. Depending on the type of non-profit, funds can also be used to pay off a building or other capital expense of the organization. Funds can be used, as well, to cover the costs of third-party needs such as printing, accounting, legal services, rent, insurance, and the list goes on and on and on.

Spare Key,, finds itself like every non-profit in Minnesota and the country always trying to find ways to maximize the resources we raise to invest in efforts to deliver our mission through our platform.  In the 25 years since our founding we have faced a rollercoaster of challenges that are not unique to our organization. 

Which is why money isn’t always the most critical asset of any non-profit – it’s people that matter even more. 

In particular, there are three types of people that matter even more than money.

First, there are the people inside your organization that are critically important. 

At Spare Key we have a full-time staff of six people to support a non-profit that is registered and licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As I often tell people we punch above our weight given the small size of our staff. Truth be told, given the work that needs to be done we find ourselves doing the work that should be done by two to three times the number of people we have working at Spare Key. 

There’s no single person at Spare Key who wears only one hat. Everybody, including the Executive Director, has to be prepared to do whatever needs to be done to get things done to support our program mission. While each of us has a specific job title, duty and responsibility, there’s not a one of us who doesn’t have to pitch in to help somewhere with another colleague's project or initiative. 

Second, there are the people on your Board of Directors.

In the 10 ½ years I have served as Executive Director, I have been fortunate to have a Board of Directors that has been overwhelmingly engaged, dedicated, and committed to support the organization, and its staff, in every way possible. This is key to any non-profit organization’s success. From our Groove Gala to golf tournaments, to everything in between, our Board of Directors steps up to make a big impact. 

But, perhaps more importantly than what they do for us to support events, is what they do to support us with their talent and skills. I often share with people that I have an entire Board of Mentors on my Board of Directors.  Individuals who have life skills, both personally and professionally, that are critical to our organization’s success. I reach out frequently to individual Board Members to seek their advice, counsel, and wisdom on a host of issues ranging from legal, financial, personnel to simply needing someone who will listen to me vent. 

Third, are the people who are your Volunteers. 

In 2021 it was estimated that the dollar value of volunteers to non-profits was nearly $200 billion.  And, according to the hourly dollar value of a volunteer in 2022 was nearly $30 an hour nationwide – in Minnesota alone that estimated hourly value is $32.33!

Value of Volunteer Time Report | Independent Sector Resources

Value-of-Volunteer-Time-by-State-2001-2021.pdf (

What does that mean, in practical terms, to Spare Key? If you look at our 2022 Spare Key Groove Gala which had over 125 volunteers donating a total of 500 hours during the two-day’s of set-up, and the day and evening of the event, that totals over $16,000!

Over the course of a year the number of volunteer hours donated by our Board, volunteers at events, and elsewhere, numbers in the thousands of hours which, as you can no doubt see, underscores just how critical volunteers are to the operational success of Spare Key. 

Erich Mische Signature


Erich Mische
Executive Director