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Friday, August 24, 2007

Speaking of Prices... At What Price? by guest blogger Man fom U.N.C.L.E.

My little grassroots organization is funded through grants, foundations and private donations. We barely keep our heads above water, operating at a deficit in most years. As a community based social service organization none of us are employed here because we seek to pad our bank accounts, drive Ferraris, or furnish our summer cottages/mansions. We're here because we want to make a difference. The philosophy of the organization has always been give to those who have not, despite the hardships it may cause ourselves. Our paid staff consist of 3 full time workers (who average 60 hours of work per week {I'm one of them}), 3 half time workers (who average 40 hours of work per week) and 3 quarter time workers (who average 20 hours of work per week). The rest of our organization's work is carried out through volunteers. Last year, 1,400 volunteers provided over 31,000 hours of community service in support of our clients and community. We have a Board of Directors who serve on a voluntary basis but are fairly removed from the actual service of our work.

Here's the ethical dilemma that I face. At what price would you sell out a colleague? I'm so filled with guilt as I write this.

Each year we apply for grants requesting outrageous sums of money with grandiose plans of new programs that we'll implement, with goals to hire new staff, and upgrade the services we'll offer. If the grants are awarded, they are usually at amounts far less than what we have asked for, and then Scopes of Service and budgetary allotments need to be revised, adjustments are made accordingly. As a result, each position within our organization is funded by a peicemeal budget with percentages of people's salaries spread out among several grants. Grant A may fund 32% of Staff A's salary, 47% of Staff B's Salary, 11% of Staff C's salary; while Grant B may fund 45% of Staff A's salary, 23% of Staff B's salary and 89% of staff C's salary. This year our organization asked city government for $150,000 to continue implement an enhanced Consumer Care Program, and were awarded only $45,000. Last year the city funded us at $50,000 for the same services.

Well, last year I was supposed to get a $2,000 dollar raise because I would be doing the job of two people; as 100% funding for the position of "Volunteer Coordinator" was cut, as was the staff person, but meanwhile the service was still needed. Somehow that raise never happened, and the $2,000 was allocated so the organization could pay utility bills. I didn't raise a fuss about it, because I knew it was for the betterment of the organization.

The problem this year with further reductions is that our board of directors is advocating for further reductions in staff by cutting a half time fellow who they perceive as unproductive. This guy is a 70 year old dude who holds 2 Master's Degrees (in Human Resource Management and Social Work), and is our organization's Intergenerational Director. They are recommending that his percentage of this $45,000 be totally reallocated to increase our services and also give me that $2,000 that I didn't get last year, in effect, severing this guy from our organization while rewarding me. Temporarily, without an Executive Director within our organization, these decisions fall on me. God, I'm so conflicted about submitting that to our funding source.

Sorry for laying this out there. Next time I'll provide government cheese with my whine.


IN TE DOMINE said...

how are you selling this man out? it's a budget issue, not a personal issue. good gosh, man, you have to eat! that means the occasional raise in salary, to offset inflation if nothing more.

i'm sorry to learn that your organization is underfunded, but it seems to me that this dilemma is out of your hands. to feel compassion for your cohert, yes; to feel responsible, no.

Man from U.N.C.L.E. said...

Yeah, I have to eat, but so does this 70 year old dude who has been somewhat of a mentor to me. He's the dude that took almost a month of his own time to write this grant proposal!

And I do not share The Board of Director's view that he has been underproductive. We all have achieved less because we do not have the funding to do more. The program that he runs has been a landmark for our organization and, according to terms of the grant, we cannot change the program design that was approved, we must simply adjust the budget to fit the smaller amount awarded.

By eliminating his position and giving myself a raise, I also then become responsible for seeing that our organization's Intergenerational Program continues, in addition to being the Consumer Care Director and the Volunteer Coordinator. It's short sighted on our Board's part to think that I can do a capable job of basically running three distinct divisions, while I am also temporarily filling in as Executive Director.

Now, in a perfect world I would demand that I get the salary of four people, since I'm doing the jobs of four people. However, given the economic climate and the fact that I'm more concerned about the recipients of our services getting quality services to enhance their lives, I know that is unrealistic.

This seems like such a slap in the face to this 70 year old dude, and it's just not right. But do I continue to bend over and take it as they continue to pile more and more work on me for the same pay, as I watch the co-workers who have marched with me at my side (or lead me at times) each disappear?

IN TE DOMINE said...

"like such a slap in the face to this 70 year old dude"

yeah, more like a punch on the nose and a kick to the pants. it's a crying shame.

"But do I continue"

my friend, only you hold the balance that will determine whether or not you continue. don't forget to weigh, however, whether your leaving will right any wrongs done by or through your organization and its directors.

~ ~ ~

Nonny Nu said...

Hi, Man from U.N.C.L.E.,

I say you do your job. As interim Executive Director, it's your duty to recommend the best course of action to the board, correct? So, if axing the old guy isn't the best because that piles even more work (more than $2000 per year worth, right?) onto your own shoulders, and the old guy isn't underproductive, then you should tell the board so. Then, it's up to them and not on you anymore.

stillman said...

if you didn't stand to make $2,000 in the deal then you would not feel as guilty. Omitting that fact, the major issue is whether $43,000 is better spent on increasing services or on the job this guy is doing. There's no way you can take on his job as well, so look at it as eliminating the position and make your decision. That's how the Board looked at it, not as you vs. him. They just took $2000 from the windfall and gave it to you because they wanted to make good on their promise to you.

Nonny Nu said...

Stillman: How was ND?

Man from U.N.C.L.E. said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm not just saying this to brown-nose, but I like Nonny Nu's the best. I'll do better to right the wrongs of the organization by standing up for what I believe in, rather than giving in and walking away. The thing is we still will have to have an Intergenerational Program whether the 70 year old dude is there or not. It makes more sense for him to continue to do it, rather than putting it on my already full plate.

IN TE DOMINE said...

" I like Nonny Nu's the best."



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Nonny Nu said...

Me right now. Being the youngest of six, I have a knack for wriggling out of decision-making duties...