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The Nonprofit Inferiority Complex and Why We Need to Lose It Now

Here’s a thought exercise you can use to test yourself for the dreaded Nonprofit Inferiority Complex, the internalized idea that nonprofit work is inherently less valuable than other forms of wage labor. How do you feel about the following statements with respect to community-based nonprofits?  1 = strongly disagree; 2 = disagree; 3 = maybe; 4 = agree; 5 = strongly agree Because nonprofit organizations depend primarily on private donations and government funding rather than earned income, they shouldn’t pay their staff as much as for-profit businesses do, nor should their workers expect the same level of benefits and professional... Read More

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

A crisis may not seem like the most convenient moment to take stock, but it can be an opportune one – if we take advantage of the opportunity.  U.S. society will be profoundly different post-pandemic. What that new order will look like is up for grabs. Nonprofits are positioned to lead the way to a more just and moral future. But to do that, we need first to radically reframe the way we think about and organize our own work.  Instead of asking, “How can we squeeze the most out of our staff given our limited budget?,” we should be... Read More

To Fellow Owning Class Progressives: Time to Step Up!

Last week, I drove up to my local hospital to drop off some extra masks that we had bought a couple years ago during peak wildfire season. As I handed them to the hospital administrator, he said “Thank you so much. Would you like a picture of yourself handing these to me?”  Seriously? This moment spoke volumes about how entrenched we have become in a culture of individualism, self-promotion, and self-interest. Moreover, it showcased the way that donors are canonized in our society. The donor is seen as the savior to whom people must bow and ask what more they... Read More

College Amplifies Advantages & Disadvantages

Here’s some bad news for all of us who strive to get more working-class first-generation students into and through college: college is not an effective leveller. Class inequalities persist even among graduates of ‘good’ colleges. Expanding opportunities for higher education is ineffective if advantaged students graduate with even greater advantages, and if disadvantaged graduates still fall behind. In her new book Amplified Advantage, Allison Hurst tracks students at small liberal arts colleges and finds differences during and after college among those from different class backgrounds – differences that turn out to have a huge impact on adult careers and life... Read More

COVID-19 and Class Inequalities

The national conversation about coronavirus highlights existing conversations about enduring class inequities in the United States. Elite colleges and universities, in line with the CDC’s preventive measures for institutions of higher education, have opted to move instruction online and reduce the numbers of students in their residential buildings. The decision has placed a tremendous burden on students from low income backgrounds, students from countries the US has banned travel to, and students who rely on income from their on-campus jobs to support themselves and their families. The impact extends beyond campuses as volunteer organizations supported by students from colleges and... Read More

Tips for Developing a Values-Based Compensation Structure

TSNE MissionWorks published the 2017 Valuing Our Nonprofit Workforce compensation and benefits report which gathered data representing 171 positions from 342 organizations reporting on nearly 35,000 individual salaries. You’ll find the report a wealth of information to use in your review of your organization’s compensation practices. There is no single right way to develop compensation practices. But clearly articulating organizational values related to compensation and benefits, and describing the ways in which they are reflected by practice, assures staff and stakeholders that compensation decisions are systematic and fair. And when employees feel they are being treated fairly, even if they wish... Read More

Five Human Resources Tips for Valuing Your Nonprofit Staff

We know one of the things that keeps nonprofit managers awake at night is concerns about personnel. In the social sector, employees are an organization’s greatest asset. Nonprofit leaders naturally want to get that critical piece of their work right. But this can be particularly tricky in smaller organizations that don’t have a designated human resources manager on staff. Often HR functions are spread out among numerous positions — someone in the finance office does payroll, maybe the office manager posts open positions and orients new employees, and the executive director inevitably handles personnel issues. And this works well enough... Read More

Thoughts on Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Kristoff and WuDunn

An essay adapted from Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, the new book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, appeared in the paper’s Sunday Review section on January 9th. Focusing on “deaths of despair” occurring in the Oregon county where Kristof has roots, the piece tries to square common tropes about how those with social privilege and power write about poor people in the paper of record. To their credit, Kristof and WuDunn point out structural problems, name capitalism, and acknowledge the problem with attributing poverty to cultural deficiencies. But like many in their New York media... Read More
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