Tag Archives: charity

Saving The Bees Or Saving My Rent?

In the last decade or so, there has been a massive increase in the number of campaigns and protests and such, by varied groups of people towards making our world a better place. I have great respect for people who live their lives completely or in bits for the restoration of human dignity, or compassion for animals. This brings to mind the people who work in the field in the communities and countries that require these interventions. It also brings to mind the people you find on streets in the city centres in different European countries; they wear brightly coloured raincoats and hold clipboards ready to stop you and talk to you about how you need to sign up to end game hunting in Zimbabwe, end the war in Iraq, to bring clean water to children in Lebanon, or to feed pregnant mothers and their children in Sudan.

All these causes are meaningful and contribute in no small measure to the many humanitarian interventions that are improving the lives of ordinary men and women. I know that these causes are important, because I have worked in international development; I saw how these contributions helped women make the choice between small creativity driven businesses, and commercial sex work. I also saw how the distribution of free condoms reduced the incidence of HIV infection. I saw how the funds collected by a small group of women in a small town church in North America contributed to the purchase of anti-shock garment that saved lives of pregnant women during prolonged and difficult labour.

However, that is not to say that there aren’t some disadvantages to this consistent request for funds from people. I have spoken to people who think it is all a huge racket to take advantage of people and pay big fat wages to development professionals, or to enrich individuals with no scruples who misappropriate these funds for personal gains; cars, houses, fancy holidays. I shall try to do a post on these types of issues soon enough. Someone also said to me that he was 33, and from when he was 10 years old, he saw the adverts on TV calling for aid to support African children. He was distraught that after 23 years, African children were still starving. I said to him that it continued to happen because those children who were barely able to feed have gone on to become struggling adults with their own children, and it is a vicious cycle; not entirely their fault, governments continue to be irresponsible and climate change is throwing us new challenges that make food production increasingly difficult on the planet. Very complicated.

Anyway, yesterday I was in the town centre and a really good looking man in a shiny yellow rain coat with the usual clipboard came over to me. I knew he was a campaigner looking for my money. I did not feel like stopping but what can I say? He was good looking and flashed me a smile that stopped me in my tracks. I asked him what he was campaigning for/about.

source: sciencebuzz.org
source: sciencebuzz.org

“Save the bees”, he said.

What? I thought it was a joke, I chuckled a little bit. But then I realised he was serious. He went on to tell me about how bees in the UK were going extinct. Bees are important and we need them for cross-pollination of crops. It was going to cost the UK over a billion pounds in the near future to conduct artificial pollination if nothing was done about saving the bees. Now at this point, I was struggling between keeping a straight face, and imagining homelessness and hunger in the UK and Ethiopia respectively. All these social issues are real and important, including bees. But the question is; what is more important, and to who, or at what point?

“We ask you to save the bees by giving five pounds by TEXt to …. right now and we shall give you a bee saver kit”.

He flashed that smile again, he was a really good looking kid. I think that these charities have found other styles too; hire only the hot ones with perfect straight teeth. I was distracted o. But man, I thought about it again, I have people in my distant extended family who are struggling to pay rent and school fees of their offspring, there are people who are so sick in Naija and are praying and drinking agbo because they cannot afford to go to hospital, hell I am struggling to pay my rent here as a student and buy books! I decided that I had no interest in saving the bees. The bees are not priority for me at this time, and I guess for many people. I shall eat bananas and the crops that bees do not need to pollinate, should I be unable to make saving bees a priority in the near future.

“No thanks, I shall not be saving the bees today”, I said and walked on, calculating how much more I needed to save to pay my fast approaching rent and buy that used book on Amazon.

Hahahaha She Can’t Read A Map

So I know that in a couple of years, I will probably be working with another IP or a Development Agency in India, perhaps Addis or even Afghanistan. I intend to move around some in the course of my career, perhaps two years at a time in one place. There is a small problem with this plan. I can’t read a map. To make matters worse, I am really bad at finding directions. When I go out at night with my friends and am driving, you will probably hear phrases like.

“Haba Anne that’s not the way o”.
“Where are you going now”

To which I always answer;

“Sit there and wait for me to find it, you know I have no idea”
“I know where am going, this is just another road to avoid those stupid roadblocks”

It all depends on my mood. But it is a fact universally acknowledged that I generally do not know where am going (for the most part).

hahaha she can't read a map: Photo Source: www.clipartof.com
hahaha she can’t read a map: Photo Source: http://www.clipartof.com

I was cleaning up my car yesterday and found an old map under the seat. It was a map that was handed to me a couple of weeks ago during a charity walk. I remember asking someone;

“Which way back to the lake”?

The person just thrust the map of the walk route into my hands and walked off. I threw my head back in the middle of the road and laughed heartily. Someone caught up and asked me what was so funny.

“Hahahaha she can’t read a map”, I said.

This nice looking guy walked off rather quickly, he probably thought I was a crazy person, talking about myself in the third person and cracking up so much at myself.

Let’s face it, I am in trouble. How can I advance career wise and excel in the field if I cannot figure out what is what on a map? GPS devices do not count. I use them occasionally, and they speak. I do want to learn how to read regular non-speaking maps. I wonder if there is a software that can help me.

Can Salaries Be Too High In The Non-Profit Sector?

The general public; fundraisers, tax payers and donating individuals have been asking a certain question for a while now. Can salaries be too high in the non-profit sector? International development and humanitarian workers receive varied wages depending on the source of funding and the type of work being done. Some receive atrocious salaries for the long hours and risky conditions, others are quite well paid to sit in nice offices, make trips to the field and earn nice tidy per diem rates. Foundations which depend on fundraisers and individuals tend to pay more conservatively while bilaterals and multi-laterals pay higher salaries. Summarily though, the bigger the nonprofit is, the better its salary usually. Charities like Oxfam, Restless Development, VSO, Merlin, Save the Children, War Child, Water Aid will pay anything between $29,000-$35,000 to Project Coordinators living and working in developing countries while executives at the HQ or Country Directors at the field level can earn up to $80,000 depending on the skills set, qualifications and experience.

UN Meeting
Photo source: demotix.com

For private contractors such as JSI, RTI, FHI 360, Chemonics, implementing projects for bilateral agencies such as the USAID, EU and DFID, project advisors may earn anything from $40,000-$60,000 while a head of project may earn as much as $100,000 and above. Indeed one finds that executives working for private companies implementing international development through bilateral agency funding may earn bonuses equivalent of one month’s salary or more per year. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, In 2010, one-third of nonprofits surveyed provided bonuses to their well-paid executives, and the median bonus was over $50,000. More than 20 nonprofit groups paid top executives more than $1 million a year in 2010 and 2011..

The multilateral agencies such as the UN, World bank and the corporate social responsibility branches of for profits (chiefly oil companies) are by far some of the highest paying agencies. Mid-level professionals working for these agencies would expect to earn as much or more than a university professor or a specialist in medicine in government regulated health services. The benefits tend to be great as well and may include health insurance and education for dependents amongst others. The range of salaries in nonprofit really depends on size of the organisation, funding stream, and how large its income is.

Brainstorming session
Photo source: apps4africa

I read an interesting blog post recently where the question of how these organisations got their funding and what got to the frontline eventually was asked, and it stayed with me. Development, humanitarian assistance, charity work have all gone beyond ladling soup at the homeless shelter, or painting the walls of an oprhanage. These are great acts of kindness, and are still needed in the world today. However, the issues of disease, response to natural disasters, poverty, conflict, economic development and systems strengthening, democracy and governance are much more complicated. These need to be tackled through consistent planning and strategy before implementation. The work has become increasingly technical in a bid to meet the MDGs and whatever indicators the donor has set in conjunction with the host country’s government.

Angelina Jolie in DRC with William Hague
Photo source: cntv.cn

As Dan Pallotta; activist and fundraiser argues in his Ted talk video, is frugality equal to morality? These charities set big goals and work very hard at meeting those accomplishments, should they be rewarded for it? Not to take away from the awareness that they have raised about the issues, but sustainable development cannot be achieved by a 3 day trip to the Congo by Angelina Jolie or Ben Affleck, neither will a cure for cancer be found because a well meaning teenager stands in the drizzle in Edinburgh asking for change in a cancer research rain coat. Of course it all helps.

But eventually, we have to ask questions about the 55 yr old guy with a PhD in public health travelling from one health facility to another in the DRC to ensure that the malaria Diagnosis specialists in those facilities are using the rapid diagnostic testing appropriately, or that variations between microscopy and RDTs are recorded, all towards the prevention and control of malaria. One should ask about the researchers spending hours and hours working on potential cure for cancer, practically putting their lives on hold. What about those workers who dedicate their careers towards the management of HIV/AIDS, or finding a vaccine, or dealing with lead poisoning in rural communities where mining activities are not regulated? It’s really quite complex. Shouldn’t governments be taking more responsibility with regulations and integrity issues (more on this another post).

How should the nonprofit sector determine its salaries and benefits? What sort of people do we want running these foundations and multimillion dollar nonprofits organizations? Should nonprofits be discouraged from becoming so large?
But at the end of the day, as human beings, is it possible to think about these salaries though, and not wonder if anybody deserves to live so lavishly off the generosity of others? Should anyone working in aid and development whine so much (as I have seen daily in this sector) about perceived low salaries, or comparatively low salaries (when compared to organization A or B). Will the notion of nonprofit and its complexities be ever understood as non-for-conventional-profit? How much work and impact have these nonprofits achieved? Has charity been used as a tax evasion tactic by donors and nonprofit workers alike?

I personally, am quite ambivalent about so many of these issues. What are you thoughts? On giving to nonprofits or working in the sector?