Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Range of Nonprofits – Varying Quality, Leadership, and Compensation Structures – Overlooked
12:43 am edt
On April 27, the Hartford Courant
published my letter to the editor, "Cheap Shot Taken At Nonprofit Leaders," in response to Robyn Blumner's April 21 opinion piece.
The full text of my letter appears below.
To the Editor:
Robyn Blumner's demagogic, superficial April 21 piece found targets at hospitals
nonprofits "raking in the dough."
Scapegoating sometimes-inflated salaries may be
expedient, even cathartic. But it can obscure the variety within the nonprofit sector -- and the range of nonprofit salaries.
Many leaders of nonprofits, not to mention their staffs, are paid modestly -- particularly considering
the significance and burdens of their work. For example, key longtime employees of New Haven's regional
Domestic Violence Services organization arguably are underpaid -- certainly not overpaid -- for their professional skills
and dedication. They do tough, emotionally draining work to protect, counsel, advocate, and educate for progress around a
vexing social problem.
two decades of accomplishment as leader, the executive director was paid less than counterparts in the public as well as private
sectors. If anything, these kinds of nonprofit leaders deserve higher pay for long, demanding hours, extensive responsibility
and crucial work spanning the management, fund-raising, reporting, advocacy, and public liaison realms.
Glib derision of an entire sector serves little purpose. Many nonprofits are lean and worthy, others less so. An upper
tier of nonprofit executives may receive lavish compensation. Most community providers do not.
Josiah H. Brown
Josiah H. Brown is volunteer past president of Domestic
Violence Services of Greater New Haven.
Monday, April 27, 2009
More on Service, Career Choices in Hard Times
7:32 am edt
Following on the April 12 post below .
An April 17 Yale Daily News
article by Shahla Naimi notes that "Applications to Nonprofits Skyrocket":
“Applications to national post-graduation
service programs such as Teach for America, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps have reached record proportions this year, driven by
graduates seeking stable employment in a crumbling job market and looking to fulfill what some have termed the ‘call
to service’ of President Barack Obama. Applications to TFA this year broke organization records,
rising 42 percent over the 2007-’08 application cycle to reach a total of 35,000. That figure includes a record number
of Yale students: 16 percent of Yale seniors applied to the program this year, up from 11 percent in the class of 2008. Meanwhile,
nationwide applications to public service program AmeriCorps have more than quadrupled.”
Other recent items in this vein:
April 20, 2009,
Hartford Courant article, by Kathleen Megan
"College Grads Job Hunting with Volunteer Spirit" “Gabriel Ellis-Ferrara always wanted to go into the Peace Corps. Now, with the economy in a slump, he sees this possibility
with its two-year commitment as an even better option.”
April 18, 2009, New York
Times account by Steven Greenhouse
Business Grads Looking Beyond Wall Street “Business students graduating this year know they
are less likely to get a job offer in investment banking. For some, that's liberating.”
April 26, 2009, Hartford Courant opinion piece by Maryam Roberts
'Economic Draft' Forces Many Into Military “In 2008, all four branches of the armed forces met their recruiting goals for the federal fiscal year, as 185,000
men and women signed up for service. This was the highest number of people joining since 2003. The number probably will rise
as the economy gets worse. The Army offers attractive signing bonuses of $40,000, as well as support with college tuition
and valuable job training.”
April 21, 2009, New York Times article by Fernanda Santos
In MTV Style, Mayor Urges New Yorkers to Get Out and Volunteer “Mayor Michael
R. Bloomberg, with the aid of MTV News, announced a new plan to encourage volunteerism among city residents.”
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Service and Organizing, Reflecting on PIRG
6:46 pm edt
There are many reasons to deplore the current state of our economy, the unemployment and under-employment
affecting people of all ages, their families and their communities. The emerging relative appeal of lower-paying service
and organizing jobs offers a measure of consolation. It promises to draw additional talented, energetic people into
professions in which they can have especially useful effects.
Earlier blog posts (e.g., in 2008 and on March 10, February 24, and January 18 of this year) discussed
themes of service and the blend of professional and volunteer roles that is needed across our country and communities.
The Partnership for Public Service is one resource.
Note that the Serve America Act includes portions of the Service for All Ages initiative that Senator Chris Dodd and
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduced in February. LEAP and Public Allies, through which Solar Youth's Gamaliel
Moses originally came to that organization, are among the New Haven groups that have had AmeriCorps partnerships. They
might be able to expand -- or at least remain steady during an adverse economic and philanthropic period -- as a result of
the Serve America Act. This would be good news for the youth of New Haven and for causes such as literacy, with tutoring
receiving a boost.
four linked articles suggest the context for the balance of this post, appearing below them:
April 12, 2009, By STEVE LOHR
With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King?
“Public service, government, the sciences and
even teaching look to be winners, while fewer shiny, young minds are embarking on careers in finance and business consulting.”
April 07, 2009, By
Report Envisions Shortage of Teachers as Retirements Escalate
the next four years, more than a third of the nation's 3.2 million teachers could retire, depriving classrooms of experienced
March 24, 2009
Editorial: Expanding National Service
“A measure to
enlarge the opportunities for Americans to participate in productive national and community service is a sound investment
in the nation's future.”
March 19, 2009, By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
House Passes Expansion of Programs for Service
House voted to approve the largest expansion of government-sponsored service programs since the Kennedy administration.”
. . . . .
Today's New York Times article featuring Marshall Ganz -- who co-taught a course I took in grad school -- is a reminder that Barack Obama's first public
interest work was not as a community organizer in Chicago. Even earlier – roughly a year after earning
his bachelor’s degree from Columbia – he joined the staff of New York PIRG, as Janny
Scott’s October 30, 2007 Times article describes. According to Scott, after about a year at a business research firm,
Obama “was hired by the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization that promotes consumer, environmental and government reform. He became a full-time organizer at
City College in Harlem, paid slightly less than $10,000 a year to mobilize student volunteers.”
Writes Janny Scott, “Nearly 20 years
later . . . Gene Karpinski, then executive director of U.S. PIRG, a federation of state watchdog groups, met Mr. Obama in
Boston. It was at the time of the 2004 Democratic convention, when Mr. Obama delivered the speech that made him a party luminary.
Mr. Karpinski introduced himself. And, he recalled, Mr. Obama told him: ‘I used to be a PIRG guy. You guys trained me
. . . . .
Nearly 20 years after my own last PIRG experience, I feel similarly appreciative toward the organization and its
work. I will always be “a PIRG guy,” despite my anger in 2000 toward Ralph Nader, a widely
admired inspiration within the PIRG movement who alienated many of us with his destructive presidential run.
I canvassed door-to-door for ConnPIRG for five
summers during high school and college, from 1986 through 1990. Toxic waste and air pollution were the
key issues we discussed then, often after introducing PIRG for its role in enacting Connecticut’s “lemon law”
protecting purchasers of used cars. We roamed eastern and central Connecticut from the Storrs office, venturing
from the challenging turfs of then middle- and working-class rural towns (e.g, Ashford, Chaplin, Ellington, Willington, which
have subsequently become somewhat more upscale bedroom communities) with which I was familiar as a former student in regional
school district 11, to the more welcoming college-town surroundings of Mansfield; the Willimantic to Hartford corridor of
Columbia, Coventry, Bolton, Hebron, and Marlborough; the sprawling suburbs of Glastonbury and South Windsor; the central towns
of East Hampton and Portland; the affluence of Avon, Chester, and Essex; and the conservative skepticism of East Windsor (which
then had KKK sympathizers) and East Lyme (which required each canvasser to obtain a photo ID “vendor’s permit”).
The hours, which involved working all afternoon and evening and virtually not seeing one’s
family or friends all summer except for weekends, were slightly crazy. The pay was, past about a 5 dollar
hourly wage assuming collection of a nightly contributions “quota” (then $75), commission-based and therefore
irregular. Approaching strangers at their doors and asking them for money, and to mobilize, could be tough.
Doors were slammed, insults hurled, snarling dogs an occasional hazard. Still, I was hooked.
I relished the job and could not go back to the farm work that I had done an earlier summer, and which my brother continued
to do readily. Among my points of persuasion, in encouraging citizens to support ConnPIRG with their cash
and their membership, was that it was a vehicle for engaging college students, on their campuses and at their state Capitol,
in social change. Door-to-door canvasser became part of my identity, as the summers of my later adolescence
were substantially absorbed with this endeavor. Though another summer job the next year -- with UConn Upward
Bound -- was similarly rewarding and drew me toward working in education, the PIRG experiences will always endure, too.
Now, as a middle-aging husband and father, I am
an unusually easy sell -- okay, a pushover -- for the ConnPIRG canvassers who make it to my door most summers.
The spinning off of Environment Connecticut in recent years brought some questions and led me to split my modest contributions.
(1000 Friends of Connecticut and Environment Connecticut as well as ConnPIRG are among the state groups that merit support.) But
this PIRG guy will always welcome the canvasser at the door over the telemarketer on the phone.
There is a PIRG alumni network in which I hope to become more involved, having so far been only occasionally in touch with a few contemporaries from two
decades ago. If any PIRGer should see this post, please say hello. The eclectic fellow
travelers of the PIRG circuit, many of us with our eccentricities, are among its virtues.
. . . . .
Years ago, these pieces included related themes:
2000 October 30 Boston Globe "Don't Mistake a Low Youth Vote for Apathy"
2000 May 31 Christian Science Monitor "Graduating to Public Service: Is It Affordable?"
1997 June 7 NY Daily News "Charity Needs Pros"
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Decriminalizing Marijuana, and Its Medicinal Use
7:38 am edt
My aunt, a former chemistry teacher and then a nurse, in the 1970s once baked marijuana brownies for my grandmother.
She was suffering from breast cancer that had become bone cancer, and it was hoped the pot might ease her chronic pain.
A friend of mine with a severe spinal-cord
injury, who endures tremendous digestive pain despite a quadriplegic condition that has cost him use of his arms and his legs,
would surely appreciate the legalization of such remedies in Connecticut. Unfortunately, Governor Jodi
Rell vetoed 2007 legislation that would have made medicinal marijuana legal in this state. New Haven’s state senators, Martin Looney and Toni Harp, have
rightly called for Connecticut to move toward decriminalization of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
While a judiciary committee compromise led the threshold amount to be cut in half – to half an ounce – the legislation deserves support as a step toward
treating low-level pot offenses as civil infractions drawing a fine rather than criminal record. Precious
police and judicial resources should be directed more toward preventing and punishing violent offenders and dealers of drugs.
Gauging the example of Massachusetts, Connecticut could save several million dollars a year from the enactment of this
measure. (It was estimated that with one ounce the threshold, $11 million might have been saved.)
Drunk driving and other abuses of alcohol present more serious public problems than low-level use of marijuana.
Pot should be legal for medicinal use and – over the governor's veto if necessary – in small amounts should be regarded as a civil rather than a criminal issue. Cancer-stricken grandmothers
and their families, and other sufferers of chronic pain including those in a quadriplegic condition, should hardly be the
targets of law enforcers with far graver threats to confront.
Senator James Webb of Virginia has wisely introduced federal legislation to examine comprehensively
the system by which the United States incarcerates so many – including non-violent drug offenders – at such great
cost and with such mixed results. A March 2009 Pew report concluded increasingly high incarceration rates have failed to reduce recidivism much. More than three percent of American
adults – more than 7 million individuals – are in prison, on parole or probation.
Additional articles, from the NYT:
March 30, 2009, on the Webb bill
Editorial: Reviewing Criminal Justice
bill that would establish a national commission to review America's prison system should be “given high priority
March 26, 2009 March 24, 2009, by REBECCA CATHCART
Editorial: Relief for Patients
“A decision to
no longer prosecute dispensers of medical marijuana should bring relief to the people who need the drug for health reasons
and free up law enforcement.”
Shift on Marijuana Policy Delays Sentencing
“A federal judge
postponed the sentencing of a man convicted of running a medical marijuana dispensary and asked the Department of Justice
to clarify its position on such cases.”