False economy

In the latest issue of her newsletter, nonprofit lawyer Kathryn Vanden Berk reviews the intersection of the age discrimination statutes with nonprofits’ need or desire to move older workers into retirement. (Copy available on request.)

Vanden Berk is too polite to say so, but hidden inside the recent attention to nonprofits’ difficulties recruiting young workers is the simple fact that [we] Baby Boomers won’t get out of the way. And hidden inside that in turn is the slightly more complicated fact that bringing in younger workers is not the cost-cutting measure among charities that it is at for-profit enterprises. Indeed, older workers actually pull down median salaries at nonprofits, because so many of them came into charitable employment at a time when getting paid adequately was a sign of insufficient commitment. (And, lest we forget, because so many of them are women and thus routinely underpaid.)

So the real question is not whether nonprofits CAN remove older workers when it’s time for a change of direction, but whether they WILL. Or will they cling to low-paid veterans not because their experience is invaluable but because donors want to continue providing society’s most important features–social services, education, the arts–on the cheap?

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One Response to “False economy”

  1. janinsanfran Says:

    Amen to this post! I’ve done a good deal of mediation of situations in which advocacy outfits founded in the 70s by earnest Boomers were trying to get through a generational transition. These were often the unspoken issues, plus Founder Death Grip.

    That said, I remain uncertain whether meaningful social change work can be comfortably compensated, not only because of donor cheapness, but also because of the nature of the work. The folks who enjoy privilege don’t usually pay to be made uncomfortable.

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