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Is it possible to earn a living through charity or volunteer work?

I am wondering, specifically in Canada, if there is any way in this day and age to earn a living through volunteer work? I am thinking just basics, like rent, food, electricity and savings. I like helping people and solving problems, but most of the jobs I get leave me with little time or energy to volunteer.


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    Gail . 50+

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    Mar 17 2013: There are many job opportunities in non-profit organizations. Some pay extremely well, many pay decent wages, and some cover basic expenses. Savings is not part of basics, and that's why Dan Pallotta is dead wrong about the way he thinks about charity.
    • Mar 17 2013: savings should absolutely be part of basics. you never know what is round the corner in life. something could happen that means you cannot work, or have more expenses, and savings can cushion that blow. but also, we are facing the problem now of an aging population, saving throughout working life is necessary to finance retired life.
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        Mar 17 2013: I understand the importance of saving. But I was referring to the referenced Dan Pallotta talk, where he says that we should not use overhead (salaries & commissions in part) as a way to decide what NPOs to support. I do not want my contributions going to providing paying jobs to those who are well-able to volunteer their time while working in the private sector, or living off their already accumulated vast wealth. I wasn't especially articulate, but I was trying to be a little tongue-in-cheek.

        I think that Dan Pallotta is dead wrong about the way HE thinks about charity.
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          Mar 17 2013: The point that I got from the talk was that charities need to be able to attract the innovators. Innovators tend to give their all to one passion and don't have the time or energy to spread it out in many directions.
          As for donating time, it requires money to attract people to donate their energy, efforts and ideas. Videos, television, sports, family, work all compete for our time and attention. If charities can't be "in your face" the way advertised time users do, then, again, charities lose by not having the "overhead" capital. I agree with Dan; we need to think different about social innovation.
        • Mar 25 2013: What feels challenging for me in this conversation is that I think the numbers in the talk are actually on the high side for what heads of most nonprofits make. I've been in the nonprofit sector my whole adult life (and I'm 43). I've run organizations, been a volunteer for organizations and sat on boards for organizations. NONE of those groups that I've been involved with are paying their staff more than $30,000/year. One group I work with right now pays their half time ED $10,000/year; everyone else is making $10/hour. And this a group who has 5 program areas and 25 years of history, clearly contributing good to the world.

          So when he gives the average medical charity numbers, I think this is the upper end of what is happening in nonprofits. Here's some more balanced stats: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Industry=Non-Profit_Organization/Salary

          I've never had a savings account with more than $2,000, and a recent medical crisis has put my family $30,000 in debt (did I mention none of the groups I've been involved with offer benefits?) My son has just decided he wants to go to college two years early, and we are scrambling to make that happen for him; the investments we've managed to make to support him aren't going to produce for another 18 months (which looked like smart planning at the time--just in time to protect his access to college). I work hard and always have; this isn't about being lazy or foolish about things like investments.

          I see very directly how groups in the kind of position that these groups are in are being crippled by the "program funding only" attitudes, and the idea that it isn't ethical to make a decent living in the nonprofit sector. He is absolutely right that we have a massive double standard. I guess I hope the folks that are concerned that people are getting wealthy in the NP sector are also being activists to cap CEO pay in the profit-making world.

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