Why I’m tired of the non-profit scene

I wasn’t going to post this.  Just thinking about it makes me tired.

It used to get me all riled up and put me in an argumentative mood.  But these days, I just sigh.

Senator Mark Montigny wants to reign in excessive salaries in the not for profit sector.  If you read the article here http://tinyurl.com/7fnj47f, you would agree that some salaries are perhaps a bit excessive.

However, the glib comment about salaries that are into the six figures needs a response.

Are we talking about a small, 3-person operation that serves soup to homeless people?  Or are we talking about a major university renowned for its research?

The problem with making a blanket statement for all non-profits is it doesn’t take into consideration the qualifications necessary for executing the work of some non-profits.  But there are those who believe that non-profits, across the board, should have artificially low salaries, even though they’re usually doing more noble work (and with far fewer resources) than their counterparts in the for-profit sector.

How about the person overseeing Harvard’s endowment of $27,557,404,000?  Do I really want someone who could be had for, oh . . say, my salary to shoulder this responsibility?  Or do I want the best possible candidate I can find?  What if the going rate for the person with the best qualifications can earn $300,000 in the for-profit sector, but will settle for $200,000 because he or she is a Harvard grad and believes in the instution?

If we’re going to determine the price of people’s labour in the non-profit sector, maybe we should also mandate other prices too.  Xerox charges $1,000 for the machine it just sold to Big Company.  Shouldn’t it be forced to sell that same machine for $500 to a non-profit?  (In truth, many corporations do offer huge discounts and gifts-in-kind to non-profits.  But should they be forced to?)

I suppose there are a million things wrong with that analogy.  I’m typing this while I’m tired.  I’m tired because the non-profit sector is severely misunderstood by those who have little experience with it.

There are even people who insist that non-profits shouldn’t pay anyone.  Non-profits should work solely with volunteers.  Sure!  And I should get a unicorn for my birthday.

That would be fantastic if all the right volunteers with all the right qualifications lined up to give their time to the causes of their choice.  But they don’t.

If we did it the way these people from some other reality insist we should, non-profits would be mismanaged, donations would shrink, services would shrink, and either the taxpayer would have to pick up the slack, or whatever ill consequences that could occur due to a shortage of programs would have to occur.  Losing a symphony or a dance troupe would be a bummer.  Losing children to hunger would worse.

And while I’m at it, why are we even considering holding the non-profit sector up to disproportionately high levels of scrutiny while Wall Street business people have been allowed to rape the population with impunity?  Just asking.


One thought on “Why I’m tired of the non-profit scene

  1. Thank you for this article, even though it is from 2 years ago. I currently work at a non profit, and the sobering reality that I can barely live as an adult, let alone afford my 6 figure college debt, has recently set in and made me wonder if this is truly the way I want to spend the next 30-40 years of my life.

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