I remember my first foray into finding an office for Exhale. I saw an “office for rent” sign near my house and gave the number a call. I said, “I’m starting a non-profit organization and I’m interested in your office space.” Her reply: “if you’re a nonprofit how do you expect to pay your rent?”
People get very confused about the difference between money and profit, i.e., a non-profit is a business you can operate with money (people get paid, you spend money, you earn money)…but you cannot run this business for the purpose of getting rich, of the board and its leaders taking home whatever is “extra” after your expenses and investing it for future earnings. You run a business for the purpose of achieving a mission that is for the public good, not to make a profit. Therefore “not-for-profit” does not equal “no money” – it just changes the nature and the use of the money you manage.
Anyways, in a recent NYT article about the mid-level wall street exec’s whose job and lifestyle is no longer the envy of their friends, a woman says:
“If you just take your base home, the question becomes, why not just work at a nonprofit from 8 to 4 instead of a bank where you’re expected to work weekends and every night till 10 or 11?” she said.
Hmm….for those of us that work in non-profits, especially small, grassroots ones, this is beyond laughable. We know not only the long hours many of us put in towards our mission, but more importantly, we also know how much smarter we have to be and more efficient than our for-profit counterparts…doing more with less, every, single day.
Yet, I really, really HATE the “who works more hours” game that non-profit professionals play with each other and the game we play across sectors. As if long hours = more effective. They do not. I want more people to have more time with their families, more leisure and better pay, especially pay that reflects the VALUE you contribute to society, not just the WEALTH you help create.
I do think that as a sector we can do a better job of helping the public understand how our work is critical to the health and functioning of our society, and hopefully, become a model for business management and practices that demonstrate a different set of values – improving people’s lives and livlihoods – versus the wealth-creation strategy whose impact is being by felt by one and all at this point.
We all want meaningful work – some of which requires more time than others – but what we should be judging is the impact of the work. Does it make people’s lives better? Does it increase understanding across difference? Create more joy and pleasure? Foster safety and sustainability?
Hours? I don’t care.