Market Street

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This is the time of year when many St Andreans are contemplating the fast approaching cliff that is graduation. If you’re still considering your options, Alice Ralston’s experience offers a compelling case for the not-for-profit sector. If I may, I’d like to add my two cents.

For far too long the philanthropy, or charity, sector has struggled to capture our hearts and our wallets in the same way that for-profit businesses have. It is a sad reality that the average person feels more affinity with the businesses they buy from, such as Apple or Belhaven, than they do for fantastic charities such as CRUK or GOSH.

Why is this? I fail to believe that it’s because humans are fundamentally selfish and don’t care about these worthwhile causes. Rather, I think that the not-for-profit sector as a whole has failed and been failed by society.

Activist and entrepreneur Dan Pallotta, founder of the Charity Defense Council, makes a compelling case that we, as a society, need to fundamentally redress the way we think about charity. If you don’t have time to read his books, he recently graced the TED stage and his talk is available online.

As students of St Andrews, our long-term job prospects are among the best in the country, even if it doesn’t always feel that way in the short-term. Speaking to one of my friends about why he wanted to work in investment banking, he stated that it would be better for him to earn a lot of money and donate a percentage of that to charity.

I fear that this state of mind is incredibly common. It’s based on the soundest of logic and the best of intentions, but on the whole it is flawed. After benefits, the chief executives of charities such as Marie Curie Cancer Care, Oxfam, UNICEF and Shelter are all paid under £100,000 per year. This may sound like a lot of money, but when compared to the CEOs of companies such as Walt Disney, Ralph Lauren and Starbacks who are paid over 200 times this amount, their seemingly impressive salaries pale into insignificance.

The reason businesses are so successful is that they are run by the best people. If we want our charities to succeed and we truly do care about these causes that we support then we need to pay the people in charge competitively and hold them to a similarly high standard of results. This is not a betrayal of the charity but rather a much-needed significant investment that has the potential to attract the very best people to the not-for-profit sector.

If we hope to solve the world’s problems, it is imperative that we have the very best and brightest people in fields such as finance and marketing working on them.

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