Is your nonprofit contributing to the income gap?

This headline in the LA Times yesterday left me shaking my head in shame:

Income gap between rich and poor is biggest in a century.

I’ve written before about my concerns for philanthropy as a result of this gap. See Dr. King,the isolated wealthy, and the future of philanthropy.

But today I’d like to challenge our sector on its own contribution to poverty.

“Whoa!” you say. “Doesn’t our sector do more than its share mitigating the conditions of low income Americans?”

I agree. For example, you may not know that this week is National Diaper Need Awareness Week. I’ll bet you haven’t even thought about how much it costs to buy diapers. Did you know there are no special federal supports to help low-income families buy diapers or other hygiene products. You can buy soda with your food stamps, but not diapers for your baby.  We applaud the hard work of our incredible client, the National Diaper Bank Network, and local diaper banks around the country which are building public awareness and a national system of diaper banks, much like the food bank system, to help meet this need.


While we can be proud of the direct supports and policy advocacy nonprofits do to correct income inequality, we also must acknowledge our own sector’s contribution to the income gap.

  • How many of our own workers are we paying poverty wages?
  • How many of our own workers lack health care coverage?
  • How many of our own workers will lack pensions when they retire?

Yes, yes. I understand the reasons. Government reimbursement rates. Tight budgets.

But this doesn’t let us off the hook.

It’s time to face our complicity head on.

It’s time for difficult conversations.

It’s time to hold ourselves accountable – in our communities. In our individual organizations.

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