Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Run Charities Like a Business, Help More People

I'm a writer. I sometimes get emails from LinkedIn for "Jobs You May Be Interested In."

I'm currently working a great freelance job I got through this process, and today I checked out another batch of offerings. One looked interesting, so I read through the specifics, including the qualifications, which included:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Communications (Journalism, writing, mass media) or related work experience. References and Portfolio must be included.
  • Artistic skill and talent in creative writing.
  • Ability to work on projects independently as well as in a team.
  • Ability to multi-task and follow several stories at one time.
  • Creativity and instinct to communicate and find ideas.
  • Willingness to work very closely with people from foreign cultures.

Sounded good. So I read on down to this line:

Compensation: Volunteer.

Seriously? Up to this point the ad sounded like a full-time job, working with a team of professionals. The qualifications certainly sounded like someone with high talent and experience. But no pay?

Admittedly, the job was for a Christian charity. All compensation, after all, isn't monetary. The successful candidate would likely receive some spiritual compensation in the fact that he/she is helping the impoverished and furthering to cause of God.

I'm all for that. But I have to eat.

The purpose of this job is presumably to tell the successful stories of the ministry to get people to open up their pocketbook, thus enabling the ministry to help even more people.

And, certainly, if all the work is done by volunteers more money goes to the people who need it. But consider this: By bringing up the people who need help, you are bringing down the people who are helping you. If I volunteer for this job, it creates less time for me to do writing that pays my bills. (And believe me, I've already cut every unnecessary expense possible.)

So I'm not going to apply. I'm not saying I'm the best writer they could find, but I'd make the pool of interviewees. And if I'm not going to apply it's a good guess that they won't get many people at my level – and certainly not any above my level.

They're going to get applicants with limited skills. Whoever gets that job will be able to add it to his/her resume, and that is a form of compensation. It also will give him/her the satisfaction of helping the impoverished, and that is a valid form of compensation, too.

But those of us with sought-after writing skills can find someone to actually pay us money for our work. And that will provide medical care and food for our own families, who also have needs. I would love to help the people this ministry helps – and at the same time help my own family. Wouldn't that be a novel idea?

There's a saying in business: You have to spend money to make money. And you know what else? You have to spend money to raise money. If this organization isn't paying its writers, photographers and videographers I can guarantee the result: the articles, photos and videos will be somewhat less than they could be. And you know what? The better those things are, the more people they are likely to reach with their message. And the more people they reach with their message, the more donations they are likely to bring in. And that will allow them to help even more people.

I know of several ideological businesses that are run exactly like that – a business. They make tons of money and still get their messages out. And more people see that message because, without compromising their beliefs or standards, they run their businesses to make money.

Yes, it's noble to sacrifice for a greater good. But it's not noble to do so unnecessarily.

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