04 November 2006

Are you running a human service agency, or a pretext for affluent do-gooders to get out of the house?

Here's another one that comes through the grapevine(1):

A direct service worker from a human service agency is trying to recruit candidates for an early-intervention position that is similar to hers. She tells colleagues from other organizations that her agency needs someone with solid experience and credentials, but they really can't pay much. She's hoping that maybe they'll find someone who is willing to work part-time, someone whose spouse has a good job and who can afford to work for hardly any money.

Excuse me? They'd like to recruit a human service worker who is married to a reliable breadwinner? Isn't employment discrimination based on marital status against the law?

Aside from the legal ramifications here, there are serious ethical and socio-economic issues to consider. Is this any way to run a nonprofit organization - by hoping that you can get away with paying less than a living wage? - by limiting your search to the relatively privileged?

Social work is not and should not be the exclusive domain of wealthy ladies who turn up on the doorsteps of the unfortunate and patronize them. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not only a fictional character, but an archaic one.(2)

I've said it before in another context, but it's worth repeating: if you don't have the money to run a nonprofit organization, it's time to make a decision about whether to close down or find the money.

(1) One of the perks of being a cranky anonymous nonprofit blogger is that I occasionally hear from people with tales from the front lines. These emails are always welcome.

(2) "...she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty." (Jane Austen,
Pride and Prejudice.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story is scary, because it rings very true.