uwcore logo

[News] When nonprofit staff are paid so low they qualify for their org’s services

news image

A while ago, at the request of some colleagues, I talked about “Nonprofit Math” and created a little video that went viral. One of the examples I brought up was “paying your staff so little that they qualify for the services your organization is providing.” That line got a lot of chuckles.

It’s so great how we can laugh at ourselves! One of my favorite pieces of humor is an Onion article called “Nonprofit Fights Poverty with Poverty.”

But OK, a lot of humor is rooted in at least some fraction of truth, and it’s time we confront this one. Although the idea that some people are paid so little they could qualify to be a client for their own or another nonprofit’s programs seems ridiculous, the reality is that it does happen. And probably with more frequency than we realize. Last week, a friend of mine who lives in a very expensive area of the US texted me this:

“Let’s talk about nonprofits that don’t pay a living wage. My current survival job pays me $27.50 an hour (their original job offer was lower, and the top of the range is $28) as a career coach in a program for finding people employment at a living wage. I qualify to be in that program because if you make under $35 an hour, you qualify as low-income enough to get into this program. The MIT living wage calculator says a living wage in this county is anything over $28. Irony! I coach people to go on and make more money than I make as their coach!”

Here’s the kicker. “The mission of this organization is to end poverty!” Yikes!

In this sector, there are so many things I realize we just take as a par for the course; we accept them with a “when in Rome” attitude: “When in nonprofit, do what nonprofits do: pay everyone as little as possible.”

Besides low wages, there are other things. Poor benefits. Six dollars per person per year for professional development. Lack of any sort of retirement benefits. Chairs that are duct-taped together. A gift card to Ross Dress for Less as a Christmas bonus.

But this is just not tenable. We can’t keep accepting all of this as normal. Not when there’s more and more reports of nonprofits being unable to recruit and retain people, with vacancies often lasting for months, and fewer people wanting to lead nonprofits. It affects the entire sector. So many brilliant colleagues I’ve known over the years have left the field, taking their talents with them.

Click here to read full article and what can be done

View full release
  • Date

    May 17, 2024

  • By

    Non Profit AF


Sign up for the Healthy Aging CORE Alberta e-news to keep up-to-date with activity from the platform and the Community-Based Seniors Services (CBSS) sector across the province.

Learn More
First Name *
Last Name *
E-mail *
Organization *