By Robert Egger
First of all, I think that’s important to acknowledge that most who work in corporate America love their jobs and products just as much as those of us in the nonprofit side. I fight the stereotypes everyday (who is homeless, etc..) so I don’t want to imply that for-profit employees are any less committed to community than I/we are. But…society views the contributions of corporate America as “greater” than those of the nonprofit sector, so the wage scale slides higher in their favor. Is that right? Of course not….that’s why I have spent so much time trying to help promote the Value of the sector (see the V3 Campaign).
I’m also hearing that a growing number of young people want to merge their income, lifestyle and spirituality…in effect making a solid wage while not only NOT doing harm, but actually doing good. Many have ventured into nonprofits (straight from school or from jobs they do not find fulfilling) thinking they will find it there. They won’t…at least not yet. This is why this discussion is so key. But there are two parts---
- To get to the point where we can offer solid, well distributed wages AND upward mobility in the nonprofit sector, we’re going to have to explore new hybrids that merge for-profit and not-for-profit concepts (Look up social enterprise, micro-credit, LC3 Corporation - all concepts already ongoing). But...
- This will involve a new distribution of resources. In short---we’re going to have to discuss wage in both sectors while also analyzing the impact of their work.
Frankly—we still view the contributions of for-profit and not-for profit through a bifurcated (and gender biased) lens. For-profits (male) creates wealth while not-for-profits (female) nurture community. Once you get your heads around that, then you can begin to understand why we’re in this trap. In reality BOTH sides are equal. BOTH need the other to thrive. But as long as we adhere to this outdated and frankly, idiotic separation, then we will appear at odds, and remain locked in boring battles over which has a better campground.
Our current economic meltdown allows for a robust new debate, and I urge you to join in. What is a good wage in BOTH the sectors? How can consumers create economic incentives that encourage (rather than mandate) behaviors we support, in BOTH sectors? Is it time for a nonprofit NASDAQ? Should you be able to get an “annual tax dividend” when you invest in a high performing non-for-profit?
If you are under 35—you need to be all up in this dialogue, as you all are going to get the bill.