Tuesday November 10, 2020
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Hey, it's Chyla Graham, and welcome to another episode of the Nonprofit Nuggets Podcast. This is my brain dump, my no-holds-barred episode related to budgets. And what I specifically want you to think about is how your budget will inform... Or your spending throughout the year will inform the completion of your 990. And I know I've been talking about budgets, but I actually want to talk about the accomplishment section of your 990. So the accomplishment section of the 990 is where an organization can talk about the amazing work they do, the progress that they received, the accolades they may have received from outside parties. I've also seen in this section where organizations talk about how little... Well, not how little they spent, but how much they get in volunteer hours. So they talk about the ED volunteer their time. And the board members, they all volunteer their time.
And you look at the other part where you think about time and how much money is being spent is... On the 990, there's a section about key employees, directors, and it talks about how many hours are being worked, how much pay is being. And if you look at that, and you notice that your organization is not paying minimum wage to the executive director, what you're doing is creating an imbalance, and you're perpetuating inequities, because people can't work for free. It's nice to do something for your passion, but to be realistic, food costs money, rent costs money. And if you put people in the position where they are working, and they are not able to meet their basic needs, you're either sending them to another organization for support services. You are sending them to the government for support services.
And I worked a lot of jobs, worked at Walmart at one point, and I had someone come through my line who said, "I'm on food stamps because I work at a nonprofit," and that was the most aggravating thing I've ever heard. For me, food and security is a big issue. It's something that I feel passionately about. And so, for someone to say, "I go to work every day, and the organization I work with talks about how much good it does in the community, but it is unable to pay me enough money for me to feed my family." That is a problem. So when you are thinking about the work that you're doing, think about, are we doing the work in a way that is inequitable, and unsustainable? Because if you have an organization where the only people who can afford to work, there are the people who have a partner, or a trust fund, or something that actually pays for them to live.
You're not creating an organization that people can join. It's going to create a power imbalance. And what you typically see is that being in those spaces where you're like, "Wow, look at all these nice white people who want to serve all these poor black and brown people." The fact that you don't see black people in leadership isn't because we don't want to serve, it's because the pay is too low for us to honestly say like, "Well, I could choose to eat, because I don't have someone out here who's going to pay all those bills." And so, it becomes a reflection of the systemic racism. It becomes reflection of all the power imbalances, all the inequities that we see in our society. So do not let that be your organization. Do not let your organization be one that if the founder were to leave, you couldn't replace them with anyone because no one is going to work for free.
So that is my little pet peeve. And my other pet peeve as it relates to pay, and I want to say this so that I can get it out, is when I see people post about wanting a grant writer, and they want the grant writer to work on a commission. One, if you talk to a reputable grant person, they can't work on commission. That is unethical. Unethical? Yes, unethical. And the reason that is, is not because they... One, they don't need a buy-in. Their success at writing the grant, honestly, has very little do with their actual grant writing. They can do an amazing job, but if you don't have the necessary data, you don't have the necessary information, regardless of how great they are at their job, they're not, you may not get it, and they should not be penalized by your lack.
So if you lack the documentation, or you lack the information, to tell them that they should work and not receive compensation is unethical in my opinion. And there may be times where you have all the things, you have all the documentation, they put in all the hours, and you still get denied. Why should they work for free? So that is the question to ask yourself, if you're an organization who is like, "We really want someone who's going to work on commission." Why should their lack of effort be okay, and why should they have to put through all this extra work when they have a life to sustain, and not receive compensation? So those are my concern. So for you guys, as you leave here, and you go and you finish up your budgets, hopefully, you joined me for the budget workshop, is think about, one, if you only saw the accomplishments you list on your 990, would you fund you?
So like, if you only saw that you got everything for free, would you give yourself money? Would you give another organization who said the same things money? And also, as you think about the people that you want to give labor to your organization, consider, are you putting them in a position where they currently won't need resources from you or another organization? If they are fully employed by you, they work 57 hours for you, and they cannot afford to feed themselves, reconsider, should you continue that? Do you need to cut back on some things to make this really a balanced work environment. And that's it. If you have questions, comments, concerns, do send them. I would love to know your thoughts about my thoughts. All right, have a great day. Bye.