NP Career and Money: Where’s the Conversation?

This is post six of six in a series about career and money from the point of view of a low-level nonprofit worker.  For some reason I hear little about it in nonprofit land.  The bottom line: if you don’t read The Simple Dollar, start now.

Why Don’t We Talk About This More in Nonprofit Land?

When I was new to an organization I’ve worked for, I was being introduced around on my first day.  When I met the accounting assistant, she let me know that the check cutting process was quite simple and that if I ever needed a reimbursement check immediately, even if it was small, that I just needed to ask and it would be done.  I remember thinking that that was very sweet but that I would never put myself in that position.

The thing is, she said it for a reason: because it happens.  It’s surely happened to people I’ve worked side by side with.  A couple of unlucky circumstances or bad decisions later, it easily could be me asking accounting to reimburse my mileage today instead of next week.  I’m closer to the margin than I’d like to think.

And that brings me to my question: why aren’t we talking about this?  Why don’t we swap money-saving tips, and carpool, and have our office properly on a bus line, and pool childcare, and barter, and share free events, and organize our own free entertainment?  Why don’t we actively share resources on personal finance and tax advice and saving energy?  Why don’t financial advisers donate a lunch break to give some guidance to nonprofit workers?  Why do we have #nptech but not #npsalary?

How else could we be supporting all of these individuals who are choosing not to maximize their earning potential?  And should they have to make this choice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and any resources you know of!

One thought on “NP Career and Money: Where’s the Conversation?

  1. Well, it’s not like #nptech gets a lot of attention from the greater NP world either…

    I’ve worked in an organization that made some attempts at financial education for its staff, and I’ve seen some of the barriers they bump into. When I was a newbie social worker, my employer rolled out a 403(b) that was the best thing since sliced bread. I sat through the whole presentation and my brain clicked into the “off” position as soon as they said “retirement.” I was 23, struggling to make my car payments, and the thought of diverting money OUT of my paycheck to a fund for when I turn 67 was a ridiculous concept to me. I did “get” it when I was 30, making enough money to want to shelter some $$ from taxes, and not being so close to the margin with my bills each month. So one part of the problem is where the staff is at currently in their fiscal lives, and finding what benefits are out there that appeal to them and can be used by them right now.

    The other part of the problem is where the staff is coming from. I come from a blue-collar family where the gas was turned off once a year and where there were weeks of pasta-only dinners. My parents didn’t come from families with higher financial education and habits, and they never developed income or stored wealth enough to get this education and these habits along the way. Some of the line staff I worked with had the same background or even worse; for example, the child care workers in the group homes didn’t have bank accounts (because their parents didn’t, and they didn’t trust banks) and so they used check-cashing places, money orders, etc… all of which ate away at their meager paychecks. No amount of persuasion from the HR department could convince them to use direct-deposit, even when the GH paychecks were stolen en route to the GH twice in one year. While not everyone is coming from positions that low on the financial education/habits spectrum, I would hazard a guess that nonprofit line workers have a higher percentage of people without basic money management knowledge and habits than most for-profit companies. I tried to help them develop more financial savvyness, and tried to get the organization to do so too, but too much of the problem was basic distrust of formal financial systems. They depended on the parallel financial system of rent parties and “sou-see clubs” to get by, and it had worked for them and their families in the past, so transitioning to the formal financial systems was not attractive to them.

    That’s probably more extreme than you meant, but where the staff are coming from is a pretty important variable when talking about the issue.

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