By Pilar Oberwetter
By Pilar Oberwetter
"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Cardin. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."
"I'll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving, is a financial crisis and an economy that's contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy, to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine."
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---
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 But as long as we adhere to this outdated and frankly, idiotic separation, then we will appear at odds, and remain locked in boring battles over which has a better campground.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.
By Pilar Oberwetter
I want to offer another perspective of wage issues within the nonprofit sector—not in level, but in distribution. Unlike the authors of the previous two postings, I feel that nonprofit salaries have increased in recent years. Not to amounts traditionally seen in the private sector, to be sure, but certainly higher than they used to be.
However, these salary increases have not been evenly distributed.
Almost universally, increased revenue and the related increase in salaries for nonprofit organizations and staff have been applied to back-office functions—not front line programs and staff. In other words, staff responsible for implementing programs, providing services and interfacing with clients do not see the same financial windfalls that the executive teams experience.
If dialogue and discussion on nonprofit salaries happens in a productive and proactive manner, equal distribution of salary increases needs to top that agenda. For me, the gradual eroding of mission priority throughout the sector— as indicated by the widening gap between executives and lay-staff within the sector—is the most distressing of all.
A reader's response to Egger:
The nonprofit sector is a funny area of grey. When picking such a career trajectory, you enter knowing you will never make as much as your attorney or banker friends (pre-recesh), but the fact that you are “doing something good” makes up for part of that salary difference. That being said, despite the trade off, you still must earn a livable wage. It is a difficult field to get into though when you have any experience, but not quite enough to be considered for a management level position (and salary).
As a 20-something college grad, there are a lot of us struggling to find ways to manifest these meaningful career opportunities that set us in a position for a climb of the not-so-corporate ladder. Oftentimes, this does not come without a serious monetary investment in an advanced degree or skill-specific, post-collegiate training that is required to be taken seriously in your field of choice. At the graduate level, programs that train such employees—MPAs, MAs in psychology, education, etc—are often those with the least financial aid available to prospective students. Thus, individuals take on a huge economic burden, which will become a consideration after their graduate training. Once completed, such an investment should be compensated appropriately.
In my current position, I have a masters degree and am paid adequately, but certainly not in line with someone who has an MBA and four years of employment experience (which would make us employment and educational equals). To make things more complicated, in order to achieve any sort of jump on the pay scale, beyond the cost of living raise, I need a Ph.D. and several more years of experience (keep in mind, I work in an odd position--evaluation). This happens at the level before me as well. A system of gradual (and livable) salaries must be considered. Often those doing the most work (in our case, direct service with a large caseload of students and families) are paid the least or mandated to be part-time. This effects quality and scope of service in a negative way. It also impacts the rate of employment turnover.
Ultimately, it’s a complicated and delicate formula. Simply because individuals work in the non-profit sector does not mean that they should expect to succumb to a lifetime of living paycheck to paycheck. We will never get a retention bonus, but we should be able to leverage our experience, education, and potential in order to secure a fair wage. Now if only someone could give me a dollar figure of precisely what that may be…
A reader writes:
“No matter what one’s political views about individuals bearing more risks, very few Americans are in a position to cope with their added responsibilities right now. That’s because most of the changes that have shifted new burdens to families and, in the process, moved people further out on the economic limb have occurred in ways that have masked the full dimensions of what has happened.”
This is an excerpt from the introduction to Highwire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families, the harrowing but worth-reading book by L.A. Times reporter Peter Gosselin.
The book’s premise is that the prosperity that the U.S. enjoyed until recently occurred at the same time that pieces of our historic social safety net were fraying. Pensions became a thing of the past, CEOs who oversaw massive layoffs rather than try to preserve the jobs of loyal employees were celebrated, and a series of Supreme Court decisions eroded legal means to get healthcare plans to fulfill their contracts. The result is that more families are one job loss or major illness away from certain financial ruin.
In my mind, this raises at least two issues for the portion of the nonprofit sector that provides social services:
By Pilar Oberwetter
The moment has come where I feel that I need to (gasp) criticize Obama. For the faint of heart, rest assured—it is not Barack that I take issue with, but rather Michelle.
While the major headlines focus on positives and negatives of Barack’s maneuvers since taking office in January, Michelle has been doing less-showy, yet very effective work in raising local morale and national awareness. She has paid visits to federal agencies, served food to the homeless, and, most recently, recruited powerful women in government, entertainment, sports and business to visit the area’s public schools in honor of Women’s History Month.
So what is my beef?
Well, when Michelle and her gang of power-gals, which included the likes of singer Alicia Keys and gymnast Dominique Dawes, went to the schools, they spoke to less than 20 students at each school who were “picked for their academic and athletic achievements.” Translation: they spoke to the successful students at each school, and provided them with examples of further success, encouraging them in words and by example to push themselves in that direction.
However, in DC’s public schools, the prevailing trend is that students do not succeed. More students drop out of school than graduate. More students fail classes than get A’s. More students get pregnant than star on sport’s teams. So why was Michelle not bringing her insight, wisdom, and inspiration to the students who are on probable paths to failure? Why was her visit treated as a reward for students who were doing well instead of an intervention strategy for students who are at-risk? Why were the students who are most in need of this type of motivation not given consideration when DCPS staff were hand-picking the attendees?
Next time, Michelle, be an advocate for those who are educationally most at-risk. Speak up for those who need more than just a path to success—who, in essence, need the whole map.
The Regenerates are all about young people taking charge and doing big things. Having said that, I wonder if my fellow Regenerates would endorse Andry Rajoelina, the new president of Madagascar. 34-year-old Rajoelina took power (literally) yesterday after successfully orchestrating a coup against the sitting president. Seeing he had no other option, sitting president Marc Ravalomanana handed power over to the country's military, which in turn gave control over to our Rajoelina this morning.
Madagascar, the African island off the Indian ocean has been plagued by poverty and political violence. In December 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the African Development Bank (ADB) suspended their support, citing irregularities (corruption). In February, the outgoing president sanctioned the use of military force against citizens rallying in front of the president's office - killing 30 people. In recent days, the military leaders denounced the use of force saying their mission is to protect citizens not oppress them - good for them!
The new president is supposed to be in office until 2011, when elections would be scheduled. We/I wish the new president well (this does not in any way imply support for his method of taking power). For the sake of the Malagasy people (and for young people everywhere), the Regenerates hope this former DJ is able to usher in an era of peace and prosperity for the island nation.
By Kehinde Togun
Written By: Cecilia Fong
Are We Prepared for a Nonprofit Bailout?
David Scadden, M.D. wrote “. . . philanthropic money is what fuels the most innovative work” in yesterday’s Express under a small Discussions piece entitled, “Stem Cell Funding.” As much as I love this quote, it got me wondering about donations and causes with today’s economy.
Although where or to whom the donation goes is ultimately up to the donor, can we prioritize the needs that currently exist? What if this “donation” or as some like to call it this “investment” comes from the government? How and where should it go? Which nonprofits should receive “life-saving” monies? Which nonprofits are essential to the fabric of (American) life? Should we rank the nonprofits trying to address the problem’s of today’s society? Do we give to those that have the greatest need in today’s economic downturn, such as shelters and food pantries? Do we give to those that are in jeopardy of dissolving due to lack of funds? Do we give to those that have the most transparency and operate under good governance? Do we give to those that may provide us with the chance of a better future? I guess, my question is, if the nonprofit sector were to receive a financial bailout package, which organizations or causes would or should be included? What do you think?
By Pilar Oberwetter
If Independent Sector (IS) is supposed to be the voice of the nonprofit sector, they need to explain, and ideally reconsider, the exorbitant fees that they charge to attend their annual conference. The cheapest rate—for a member organization who registers as an early bird—is $595. The cost rises as high as $1675 for a nonmember who signs up on the day-of. And these prices do not include cost of travel or hotel stay.
With finite budgets, small nonprofits, and even medium-sized ones, cannot afford these rates. Yet to develop a comprehensive message and strategy for mobilizing the sector, incorporating the perspective of these organizations is critical. If IS wants to capture the views of the entire nonprofit sector, the organization must make their conference more affordable.
True case in point-- the focus of the coming conference is on “strengthening the nonprofit community's ability to respond to the economic conditions facing our organizations and our communities.” IS, this Regenerate asks you to practice what you preach.
By Lina Karaoglanova
As the war between heartless economists and weepy do-gooders rages on, it’s always refreshing to stumble upon something of actual and significant substance that ADDS to the debate. Since 2005 the Upjohn Institute, Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Center and the Midwest Educational Reform Consortium have been conducting the Kalamazoo Promise, a long-term community and education reinvestment experiment. This experiment may someday give those pesky economists and emotional non-profit folks some hard evidence as to whether there really is a high return on education investment that has spill-over benefits for a community.
The project gives a full college scholarship to potentially all graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan, indefinitely! Their progress will be tracked and recorded. It’s every econometrician’s dream. Though this experiment will take many years to bear fruit, the possibilities for application may be endless. We may finally be able to extensively test not only whether these investments will increase life-time incomes for students, but also whether these investments in education can spur economic development in the community.
For all the eager international development, education and community development folks jumping in their chairs uncontrollably, take a visit.
"Tax breaks are, of course, one of the main [motivations], but donors are also sometimes paid directly for their pains, and the mere thought of a thank-you letter can be enough to persuade others to cough up. Some even act out of sheer altruism. But most interesting is another explanation, which is that people do good in part because it makes them look good to those whose opinion they care about. Economists call this 'image motivation.'"
"The U.S. has always had vibrant neighborhood associations. But in its very first budget, the Obama administration raises the cost of charitable giving. It punishes civic activism and expands state intervention."
"Of course I think the more interesting story is how we have evolved into a system in which rather than providing social services itself, the government chooses to incentize giving to the nonprofit sector via the tax code."Touchee.
"There were not enough jobs to go around before the recession took hold. So the young, the poor and the poorly educated were already suffering. Now that pool of suffering is rapidly expanding.This has ominous long-term implications for the country. The economy cannot perform well with such a large cohort of young people condemned to marginal economic status."
"With individuals and communities suffering, Americans in all three sectors - business, goverment, and nonprofit - need to come together and share information. By working together, we can collectively develop better solutions for the common good."