Nonprofit Workers and the Vow of Poverty

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Leadership. Leadership is the watchword of all conversations concerning business, government, politics and anything else that matters. Just as strong leadership makes for successful businesses, strong leadership is essential to the success of a nonprofit organization.

Make no mistake, a nonprofit is a business and needs to be conducted as such.  It is governed by a Board of Directors who help guide the mission of the organization and is ultimately accountable for its actions in much the same way that large corporations have Boards accountable for their actions. The profit margin of a nonprofit is not the money being made, but a better community. Nonprofit workers deserve to make a living wage just as people in business do.  (To find what the living wage is in Georgetown, click here.) Nonprofit employees do not take a vow of poverty to work in their organization, nor should they be expected to do so. Because they are passionate about a cause and willing to work for it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be paid a reasonable wage to do that work.  We certainly wouldn’t want to see nonprofit workers become clients of other nonprofits because they cannot afford health insurance, food, shelter or other basic human needs.

“Nonprofit” status is a tax code designation granted by the Internal Revenue Service to those groups who are not in the business of making money, but are in the business of improving the community or the world in some way.  Although some groups can and do make money (think of a Salvation Army Thrift Store), it is understood that the profits they make are reinvested in the mission of that organization.  Being a nonprofit does NOT mean that the organization’s staff members do not deserve to be paid a living wage for their important work.

It is time to bring the nonprofit world and the people who support it into the 21st century by insisting that nonprofit employees be paid a living wage that includes benefits such as health insurance and paid time off.  We can assure this change by financially supporting the nonprofits doing work that inspires us. It is time for us to turn the leadership of the nonprofits over to the younger generation, and they cannot afford to do this work if it means they must work three jobs to sustain their families. How can we lure the brightest and best young people into the nonprofit world? Paying a life sustaining wage would be a positive first step. We need the fresh perspective, new ideas, energy, enthusiasm and creativity of the younger generation to make our nonprofits the best they can be.

How can we afford to pay living wages?  We can’t afford not to.

By Geales Sands