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Are you part of the charitable-industrial complex?

9 December 2013

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 December 9, 2013
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Category: Conflict, corruption

Do you ask corporations for donations?

Do they give you a tiny amount of what they’re able to give?

What’s up with that?

Want to hear about something even more egregious?

Recently the NPQuarterly wrote about how Walmart is “offended” by people’s response to their “charity drive” to give their own employees food.

What’s the story?

“A Walmart store that had placed food donation bins in employee-only areas for “associates in need.” As one might predict, many had something to say about the wage levels of the retail giant, which force many associates onto food stamps and to charity relief. But Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, said the corporation, which does not itself contribute to the relief of its badly paid staff, was “offended” by the criticism.”

Ruth McCambridge eloquently writes, “Perhaps this is what Peter Buffett was referring to when he wrote in his op-ed about corporate leaders who “search for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”

Peter Buffett writes on The New York Times,

“As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.”

What’s the ROI of ending human suffering?

How many dollars can we squeeze out of a teardrop?

What can we do with some of our leftover marketing budget money?

INDEED!

The corporations like Walmart are part of the problem, but you could probably do a food drive for some people who work at your nonprofit too.

According to TruthDig, our minimum wage should be $22.62.

minimum-wage-graph

Are most people at your nonprofit making $22.62 an hour? No? Then I’m sorry, but your nonprofit is part of the problem.

Which nonprofits are doing this?

The nonprofits that ask us to work for $15 an hour, yet have a master’s degree and do 3 people’s jobs.

The nonprofits that have paid $10/hour to most workers for the last decade, and show no signs of raising people’s wages, ever.

The nonprofits that try to help the world, but in doing so, help keep their workers in poverty.

When I was working at a social justice nonprofit, most people there made $14 per hour or less. And this was in 2009.

I was making $20 per hour. The CEO was making $120,000 a year. And he got after people for not dressing corporate enough. But I digress.

What can we do about inequality now?

We can certainly petition Walmart and Target to pay their workers better, and in the meantime, shop somewhere else.

But what else can we do?

Even if your charity doesn’t directly work with the problem of inequality, charity does begin at home. Or, in this case,  it begins with people who work for your nonprofit.

If your nonprofit truly wants to improve the world, it needs to start at home.

Pay your workers more. And give them more time off, more vacation, more training budgets.

It will pay off.

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