Saturday, August 11, 2012

Something's wrong with this picture

Yesterday I heard a friend explain why she wants to get out of the business she's in and work for a non-profit:

"I would actually earn more at a non-profit.  These for-profit companies, they put money first.  It's profit before people."

Of course, I would like a non-profit to put people first, but which people?  Surely the point is to help the beneficiaries rather than offer employees nice salaries and benefits?  If a charity is treating its employees better than they would be treated at a for-profit, doesn't that mean they could treat them a little less well and have more money for actual services?

Of course, there are cases where maximizing profits is bad for both clients and employees.  I'm thinking of a  local for-profit mental health provider that treats its employees so badly they all quit after a year, which means clients have a constant turnover of providers.  This is bad.

But in general, I think the existence of nonprofits that are cushier than their for-profit counterparts points to the brokenness of a system where donors don't ever see good measurements of a charity's outcomes. If donors don't ask for demonstrated impact, charities don't have as much incentive to do the best work they can.

No comments: