Small NonProfit

I work for a small nonprofit–really small. We have three attorneys on staff and a budget which hovers around the 350k level. This makes us too small for many grant sources.

Ornamentation on campus, where I work.

Ornamentation on campus, where I work.

I am very fortunate to have this job. The work is interesting and although the pay is low for law and law-related industries, it’s not low by most other metrics and the health insurance is good. And I have an office with a door, flexible work hours, and a nice work-from-home perk. My commute is a breeze, whether I’m on my bike or the bus. I could–and have–even walked home, if I’ve got nothing else to do.

But best about my job: I am well-suited to the work and the work-environment and I not only really like what I do, I sometimes even see good results from my work. This sort of policy work is why I went to law school and I remain very grateful that I found my way to this organization and this job.[fn1]

Lately, unfortunately, there’s been a lot of stress associated with my job because our funding is increasingly unstable. I found this job when opposing counsel in a case I had recommended it to me. I rather suspect I won’t find another job unless that happens again. It’s stressful–because I don’t want to leave this job and because I don’t want to ask people to help me leave this job. I don’t want to go if I don’t have to, but if I leave it too long, I might suffer.

Relatedly, this week The Journal of Consumer Research (which, oddly enough, was my first professional editing job, nearly 20 years ago) has an article (by University of British Columbia graduate student Kirk Kristofferson and co-authors Katherine White and John Peloz) examining how social media “awareness” & “support” campaigns relate to donations and time commitments to nonprofits and their causes

The Washington Post editorial “Does Slacktivism Work?” summarizes the paper’s conclusions like so:

In other words, those whose initial act of support is done more privately (for example, writing to a member of Congress) are more likely to engage in deeper, more costly forms of engagement later on. Those whose initial support is public (i.e. through posting to Facebook or Twitter) are less likely to engage more deeply. Moreover, the researchers find that most appeals for token engagement “promote slacktivism among all but those highly connected to the cause.”

As quoted in a CTV news story, the author says: “If the goal is to generate real support, public-facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”

This is my experience. My NPO maintains a website which offers a nonpartisan judicial elections voter’s guide. The site collects candidate evaluations, as well as media resources and sample ballots from various groups and presents them in a non-electioneering manner.

This year, prior to the primary, the site had over 15,000 hits. Our tweets and Facebook mentions  generated favorites, likes, and re-tweets and no donations. Just five dollars from half of those hits would be 10% of our annual budget.

It’s very disheartening. The site needs an update. We’d like to keep our archived evaluations available. We’d like to offer more resources for voters to educate themselves about judicial evaluations and qualifications, as well as the slating process for judicial candidates.

We ran a pilot project for two years, which implemented the best practices developed over decades in other jurisdictions for evaluating sitting judges and helping them improve professionally over their careers. The feedback was positive, both from voters and some judges. But the funding is gone.

It’s taking a toll on me, right now.


[fn1] I don’t, as a general rule, name or link my place of business here. Obviously, or even if not obviously, these are my own thoughts, not my work thoughts. Nothing here is necessarily a reflection of the policies we research and promote at work; it’s not intended to be. But there certainly is cross-over between the two. I think about social justice all the time even during the hours when I’m not paid to do so.

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