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Just in case you missed it, I’ve been talking about how we need to raise nonprofit wages for a long time. And I’m not the only one.

I’m talking about research from the Ontario Nonprofit Network on Decent Work for Women, as well as Blue Avocado, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  (see chart below)

The wages you need to rent a two bedroom in each state in the US, from 2017

The wages you need to rent a two bedroom in each state in the US, from 2017



I would bet most of the people at your nonprofit do not make the wage you need for your average 2 bedroom apartment. And these are numbers that are 3 years old.

When i confronted the local economic development agency here in Portland Oregon, Prosper Portland’s head of apparel and tech, and said why don’t you focus on nonprofits, he said, because they bring the median income of the region down.

So what he was really saying was our sector keeps people trapped at a subsistence level of living.

The vast majority of people who work in this feminized sector are working for wages that do not allow them to save, or pay off bills.

At first I thought, well, then we just need to ask for more, and get bosses to see how we are worth more, and they will give us raises and we’ll get paid enough to save.

BUT despite 4 years of conferences trying to accomplish this goal, and having some people have success with these tactics, the vast majority of the sector is still underpaid. Now we are also getting laid off because of the pandemic with nothing to fall back on.

How bad is it getting?

Well, in Canada, nonprofits are encouraged by funders to not have more than 3 months of operating cash on hand, and this has really hurt people during the pandemic.

I talked with a community foundation earlier this year, and they said over 40% of their grantees are operating with less than 3 months in reserve in the bank.

According to the Associated Press and Fast Company, potentially 40% of nonprofits in the US could close in the next year. 

Who is going to give us raises now? With all of the economic contraction and great depression part 2 going on? After pouring so much of myself into these conferences, my books, and speaking and realizing the problem is no closer to being solved than it was 10 years ago, and in fact it’s getting worse, well, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

On top of that, we appear to be in the middle of a class war. We’ve created a class of folks that are helpers which actually become those needing help, because they have nothing to fall back on.

I saw this tweet below from Erica (@jerica1798 on twitter) and it reminded me that we can put WINDOW DRESSING on a problem, such as having a diversity training, or showing the wages for a job that are STILL too low,  and still not make structural change. AND another example of this is having garbage and recycling in separate containers, but then if we put them back in the same bag, we have accomplished nothing.

Trash and recycling go in the SAME BAG

I never connected the dots before.

Connect the dots between what's going wrong.

Our structure is fundamentally broken.

It's all connected by @Socialclub406

The system itself is violent because it is based on these 5 things.



It’s a structural issue that will NOT be fixed by individuals making individual demands for themselves.

Now I know.


I didn’t know back then.

Did I waste my time for the last 20 years upholding a broken system?

If so, can I forgive myself for not knowing?

It’s ok to allow it to evolve as something else is crumbling. 

We don’t have to know what the structure is because everything is changing. We are in this liminal space.