Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Know Yourself, Be Yourself, Speak for Yourself or Not

I am familiar with the essential conflict that can arise when you want to speak for yourself and in your own voice but you have a job that requires you to speak for your boss in their voice or to speak for an institution in a voice that serves the institution's interests and purpose rather than your own.

The president of Colorado College, L. Song Richardson (a lawyer and expert on DEI issues and race and politics), expressed the conflict this way as she explained in an interview with Inside Higher Education, why she was resigning as president after only three years in office:
 “There are many things that I can talk about in my role as president that are consistent with the things that we are trying to do as we move forward in this higher ed space. And then there are things that if I were an academic, as a law professor and scholar, I could speak more robustly about,” Richardson said. “For instance, I’m a scholar of race, equity and inclusion. I have a lot of deep knowledge, based on my own scholarship, about the issues that are being debated today. And because of my role as president, I won’t speak as I would if I were an academic.”

According to IHE, Richardson wrote [in announcing her resignation] that "as the national dialogue around “equity and fairness” has intensified, she has felt “increasingly torn between my desire to pursue that work as an academic with the freedom to fully engage in these debates, express my personal views, and challenge the status quo” and her responsibilities as president of the college."
Richardson chose to resolve this conflict by returning to academia to run "a new institute focused on equity, opportunity and leadership."

Seeing this as a fundamental choice she had to make is acknowledging that we don't expect or want college presidents or their institutions to lead on moral issues.  The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and others have called on boards of trustees to impose "institutional neutrality policies" theoretically to protect "free speech."  The Governor of Utah told his public colleges the state didn't need them to take positions on political issues. The Governor of Virginia and his Attorney General have hinted, as one commentator put it, at "thought policing" Virginia educational institutions from K-12 through college.
All this makes me wonder how former Princeton University and Mellon Foundation president William G. Bowen would be "seen" today. Author of "The Shape of the River" a landmark book in the debate over "affirmative action" in college admissions, Bowen was an advocate for race conscious admissions as President of Princeton and after who said this in a speech in 2005:
"Race remains the most deep-seated and intransigent barrier to opportunity. That was, is, and will remain the reality in this country for the foreseeable future. ... [P]aying attention to class and background, which we strongly favor, is, at this juncture in our history, no substitute for paying attention to race.  ... Americans always seek the painless alternative, and it is much easier for most people to be sympathetic to economic disadvantage than it is for them to understand and address challenging issues that are due in large part to what Glenn Loury has called the "unlovely history" of race in America."   Bowen continued:  "But surely it ought to be possible to think about opportunity from more than a single perspective--to recognize that the river of opportunity has tributaries of may hues and many kinds. There is also the matter of attitude. It is clearly necessary to focus on the difficulties and challenges involved in helping this river wind to the sea, however measured is its progress. But we should also be grateful for the privilege of addressing such fundamental questions, and we should be permitted to take some satisfaction from trying to do the right things for the right reasons." 
From "Extending Opportunity: What is to Be Done?" included in Ever the Leader, Selected Writings 1995-2016, pages 68- 85
Extolled in 1998 for his leadership and use of his labor economist training to make the case for race conscious admissions, would Bill Bowen be chastised in 2024 for taking a political position on a controversial issue while serving as Princeton's President or leading a major Foundation?  Would he feel forced to choose between speaking his mind based on his academic training and expertise and leading an institution? Perhaps. Perhaps not.  Definitely worth further thought.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Disrupting Non-Profits -- Part II


Disrupting Non-Profits – Part II

Empowering Contributors: The Vital Role of a Content Contribution and Payment Policy for Nonprofits

In the dynamic landscape of nonprofit work, passion fuels purpose, and volunteers are the lifeblood of advocacy. It’s time for non-profits to assign value to the stories and pictures contributed by these volunteers, people impacted by your work, and donors that you use to “sell” your organization in marketing and fundraising publications and social media posts. If amateur college athletes have a right to be paid for the use of their images and stories in marketing their institutions, why not other people on whom you rely to frame your institutional narrative and define its impact for supporters?  Having a well-defined content contribution and payment policy is a strategic move toward living your organization’s values and fostering collaboration, transparency, and fair recognition.

Here's why every nonprofit should consider adopting such a policy:

1. Honoring Contributions:

At the heart of every nonprofit are the individuals who lend their time, expertise, and personal experiences to advance the cause. A clear policy that assigns a monetary value to these contributions signals that the organization honors these contributions and the people who make them, creating a culture of appreciation and respect.  Allowing each individual to choose whether to donate or accept payment for the content or images they allow the organization to use  accords everyone the dignity of both knowing the value assigned to their contribution and the freedom to choose to make it a gift.

2. Encouraging Diverse Voices:

A content contribution and payment policy encourages a diverse range of voices to participate in shaping the organization's narrative. By choosing to offer individuals compensation for their expertise, personal stories, or specialized knowledge, nonprofits open the door to a wealth of perspectives that might otherwise remain unheard. Not everyone can make gifts of their talent or their time.  Paying for content or formally recognizing the gift of content as an in-kind contribution assists the organization in assuring that its work is “authorized” by those directly impacted by the work.

3. Quality Content Creation:

Compensating contributors for their ideas and words , whether they are captured in  articles, blogs, or speeches, or offered as advice in a meeting, inherently promotes a commitment to quality. Individuals are more likely to invest time and effort in creating impactful content when they know their contributions are recognized and valued.

4. Transparency Builds Trust:

Adopting a payment policy adds a layer of transparency to the organization's operations. Contributors, volunteers, and stakeholders appreciate knowing the criteria for compensation, the approval process, and the budget considerations. This transparency builds trust and strengthens the organization's reputation.

5. Legal and Ethical Compliance:

A carefully crafted policy ensures that the organization remains compliant with legal and ethical standards. It sets clear boundaries for compensation, avoiding potential pitfalls related to labor laws, intellectual property, and regulatory requirements.

6. Strategic Budgeting:

Establishing a budget for acquiring intellectual property allows nonprofits to allocate resources strategically. This not only helps to fund fair compensation but also ensures financial sustainability by preventing unforeseen expenditures.

7. Empowering Decision-Makers:

Delegating the responsibility of approving agreements and compensation to a designated individual streamlines the decision-making process. This ensures consistency, efficiency, and adherence to the established budget and payment scale.

8. Mitigating Risks:

The policy serves as a proactive measure to mitigate potential risks associated with content creation and compensation. Clear guidelines help prevent misunderstandings, disputes, or legal complications, safeguarding the organization's reputation.  Coupling the policy with an approved licensing agreement and a uniform payment scheme to be signed by all individuals who agree to provide content or images further minimizes risks.

9. Reflecting Organizational Values:

A content contribution and payment policy is a tangible expression of the organization's values. It communicates to contributors, staff, and the community that the nonprofit is committed to fairness, inclusivity, and ethical practices.

For any nonprofit, adopting a content contribution and payment policy is a strategic investment in the people who make the organization and the nonprofit sector thrive. It empowers contributors, enhances organizational credibility, grounds the organization’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work, and ultimately contributes to the success of the nonprofit's mission. In short, the returns on "leading the market" by adopting such a policy and the licensing agreement necessary to implement it make it worth serious consideration by any organization currently "using" its donors and volunteers to sell the organization and convey its impact by sharing their stories and themselves.