Hello? Where are the non-profits?

Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

                I wanted to be a journalist. Ann Compton was my role model. I saw her anchor on WDBJ-TV,  Roanoke, Va., in the late 1970s, the only woman on an all-male set, and announced to my family, “That’s what I want to do.”

                My father sniffed. “You’ll never make any money doing that. Be a lawyer.”

                As much as Ann Compton would surely beg to differ with my father , I’m beginning to see his side of the argument.  I followed my heart not my wallet, and I ended up a journalist, then a corporate writer and marketer for international non-profits. My father (may he rest in peace) would likely shake his head knowingly if he saw all the paltry checks I receive for the strategic direction I offer non-profits. I know he would send me straight off to law school if he knew I still receive some checks that equal no more than a rate of $25/hour–after almost 30 years in the field.

                I gained further enlightenment of the plight of communicators working for non-profits when flipping through the current issue of Working Mother magazine. Its October issue traditionally lists the 100 best companies for working mothers.

                What do Allstate, Bank of America, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hallmark, Kraft, Microsoft, and Wyeth have in common? They all made the magazine’s best practices list. In fact, of the 100 companies listed:

·         57 firms increased budgets for work/life programs this year;

·         90 percent sponsor back-up child care;

·         88 percent offer phase back programs for moms;

·         80 percent offer paid time off for employees to volunteer;

·         54 companies tie managers pay to women’s advancement rates;

·         93 percent offer adoption assistance, with 82 percent offering fertility treatment reimbursements; and

·         a full 100 percent offer telecommuting and flex time.


I noticed only two communications companies on this list, one publishing house, and absolutely no non-profits. What’s wrong with this picture, when supposedly “humanitarian” organizations can’t be as humane as the for-profits when it comes to human resources?

                I compare this list with the non-profit I resigned from because I couldn’t make ends meet as a working mother there.  In this international non-profit, no career track exists for employees who leave the domestic office to go work in the international office. Most return with no job guarantee, and usually end up accepting a job with a lower salary on contract, losing all benefits (including paid sick leave) and retirement tenure.  This organization, eight years ago, agreed to let a colleague and I “share” a job, then ended up giving us job descriptions that no two employees could complete alone.  

                Times have changed, you say? I beg to differ. I recently had coffee with an employee who had been advised by another colleague not to disclose to the organization that she was going into the hospital for surgery. She feared for her position. I know of yet another woman, a working mother, who is still making virtually the same salary she was when I worked alongside her eight years ago. She’s just happy to have a job.

                You can imagine how working mothers returning from maternity leave are treated.  Irony of ironies, this non-profit was started by a woman, albeit an unmarried one without children.

                I wish that I could say that my former employer was different from other non-profits, but I don’t believe this to be the case. My other non-profit clients are similar in the way they treat vendors, so I assume this shines a light on their treatment of employees as well. Working Mother’s List of 100 Best backs me up statistically. I only wish the stats were different, that the places that give so much to others could give back a bit to their own.  Maybe if they spent a little more on making employees successful, that would transfer to the customer. And a happy customer leads to a bigger budget. Good business practice. Basic common sense. You’d think they would have caught on by now.

                As for me, I’m starting from Ground One, turning over a new leaf. I’m beginning to listen a bit to my father’s advice. I’m looking for new clients in that Working Mother list.