I haven’t written an original post for some time, and I still don’t feel like it. BUT…I have been thinking of writing about some of the key challenges facing the nonprofit sector, and this article by Paul Taylor in the Globe & Mail takes on one of the most important issues: how the sector hurts its own workers! So, I am creating this blog post to say “Hey, go read this!”

Paul’s premise about providing meals is of course just one example – it doesn’t matter what a particular charity’s mission and related activities might be, the point remains – when we try to market for donations, funding, influence, reputation (or whatever the motivation might be) by distorting the financial costs of our work to sound “efficient” or “affordable” we are simply digging a hole for our own workforce, because the only way that illusion becomes possible is either by a) lying; or b) actually severely underpaying our workers.

In my opinion, the nonprofit sector needs to lead by example on this issue, or frankly, if we do not, we are engaging in a collective exercise in hypocrisy. We are not in a legitimate position for championing any social good if the people doing the championing are being exploited.

Original article: For the sake of the communities they serve, non-profits need to step up in combatting internal inequities – The Globe and Mail

Here’s a snippet:

The non-profit sector is often said to run on passion, and while many workers do feel a deep personal connection to their work, they’re workers just like anyone else.

We do our colleagues a deep disservice when we make statements to the public like “Your $1.00 donation buys a meal for a person in need.” Frankly, there is no possible way that this could be true. $1.00 may cover the cost of ingredients, but who made that meal? Who served it, who supervised the space, and who cleaned up afterward? What were their hourly wages? An immense amount of labour has now been erased in service of a sales-inspired donation pitch.

When the public is primed to believe that charities can operate on pennies, they’ll believe that the labour of non-profit workers should be priced accordingly. As a result, organizations scramble to make up the gaps between what’s been funded (the food) and what hasn’t (the workers). If we want to provide our workers with livable wages, we need to push back on donors who only wish to fund projects – not the people who make them happen. We need to be transparent about the true cost of labour, and advocate for the importance of decent and livable work

About Keenan Wellar

Keenan is a citizen of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) and co-leader of a social change and community benefit organization,, a registered charity which helps the community welcome and include people with intellectual disabilities, autistic persons, and individuals with a dual diagnosis to live, work, and play as valued citizens. LiveWorkPlay was named Ottawa's Best Non-Profit of 2019 by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal "Best Ottawa Business Awards " With Julie Kingstone, Keenan is co-owner of Wellstone Leadership Services, dedicated to supporting a culture of excellence for non-profit, private sector, government organizations, collaborations, and partnerships. Keenan is a founding member of the leadership group for the From Presence To Citizenship collaborative. Keenan is a regular guest (monthly) of the News 1310 Power Lunch radio show, and he writes the monthly NPQ North column for Nonprofit Quarterly. When not working and supporting various social causes, Keenan loves kayaking and wildlife photography, cheering for the Ottawa RedBlacks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and causing a disturbance on social media.
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