How “Charity Think” Affects Compensation of Non-Profit Workers (1.8)

Dan Pallotta, Founder and CEO of AIDS Ride, has stimulated me to consider the prevalent American Christian view of non-profit giving in the social sector.  The first

Dollars in handimplication of the “USA Charity Think” pattern I’d like to discuss is in non-profit compensation.

Within the marketplace of compensation for non-profits, Life Impact does not have anyone on our staff taking a HUGE salary.  Our original salary scale was based on The Navigator’s salary scale, since we started Life Impact out of that organizational framework.  Their salary scale was based on what a teacher earns in the Denver School District, because The Navigators consider their staff as Biblical teachers.  Our books are open to any of our donors or potential donors for that information, if they are interested.

Having said that, what would we or our donors think about someone within Life Impact or another non-profit organization taking a $120,000 salary a year?  Here’s Pallotta’s perspective challenge:

“We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money NOT helping other people.”

So if it’s okay for the CEO of a corporation to earn 1 million dollars a year in salary, what is the thinking behind the fact that it’s NOT okay for a non-profit CEO to earn $120,000 a year, or even 1 million a year?  What is it that makes it okay in one instance, but not okay in the second?

And for argument’s sake, let’s say the Corporate CEO manages a company that is taking advantage of workers in some other country for the sake of their bottom line and to the benefit of their shareholders (which many corporations are doing and they periodically get caught).  The Non-Profit Organization, on the other hand, is trying to bring those same workers into a positive, healthy work and economic environment.   Ethically, Biblically, who should actually get paid the most?

Pallotta says, “Philanthropy is the market for love. It is the market for all those people for whom there is no other market coming.”  I believe we probably can make an ethical case that non-profit workers can and should be paid on the same scale or better than American business is paid.   Yet that is not happening.  And when it does, American Christians tend toward pulling their money out of the non-profit marketplace.  Why is that?  What is our thinking about that?

In Life Impact, each of you Staff is a VERY VALUABLE asset to the Kingdom and charity cause.  We are in the “giving love to the world through strengthening Christian worker” business.  And “giving love” to others takes effort and money.  So even though we might deserve to be paid on the level of any other business CEO or professional worker in the business marketplace, we CHOOSE to limit the monetary remuneration we might rightfully gain.  Why?  So that extra money can actually go to help a few more people, rather than end up in our personal bank account for a better retirement.

For us it’s an issue of perspective and values.  And as Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary to Ecuador said, “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.

**  (These Thrive Mentor posts are written with our 30 Life Impact Staff in mind.  If you are a missionary or pastor reading these somewhere in our connected world, please join us in the journey of growth!  Put your e-mail address in the upper right hand corner box, and receive these directly into your e-mail box.)



About Dave Grissen

David & Sheri Grissen spent 44 years in mission and humanitarian aid work. In 2003 they established Life Impact, a ministry of strengthening Christian workers in hosted centers, called Oases. Presently 12 Oases are functioning. In 2016 they started Fund The Ministry to help missionaries create new funding for their ministries. They have five married children and fifteen grandchildren.
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One Response to How “Charity Think” Affects Compensation of Non-Profit Workers (1.8)

  1. Dave Lewis says:

    Dave, I have really appreciated your line of thinking about the value of our work in caring for missionaries. Jesus cared enough to lay down his life for them. Can we care any less? I will be using this on my blog soon.

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