Summoned to Jury Duty

A few weeks ago, I received my first ever jury duty notification. It really is a summons and it speaks with authority, with warnings of serious consequences if you fail to respond or show up on the designated day and time at Court Room 317.  Instructions and explanations were pretty good, but it was all rather cold. Who likes an invitation with an or-else clause?

I think serving on a jury is a civic responsibility, but with limits of course — people have lives to live after all —  but more about that in a bit.

I thought of mailing my notice back requesting an exemption because I am  so very busy and of course undeniably necessary (I’m smiling). But I didn’t. I wanted to see what happens when called to jury duty. I had a bit of this weird Perry Mason thing going on inside of me. I was curious and I did feel obliged to go.

I arrived at the Courthouse 8:20 a.m. on the appointed day. The official “start time” was 8:30 a.m. but we were encouraged to arrive early so we had time to go through security. Since I am always one to follow instructions, I did as I was told. I breezed through security as there was only a line of three people.

I took the elevator to the third floor and stepped out into a sea-snake of people that wrapped around the hallways and through the elevator corridor. I was directed to the end of the line, which frankly took longer to get to than I imagined it would. Most of us looked rather dazed or gazed, but who knows? Maybe I was the only one.

There was a very large gathering space on the floor. Our line wrapped around its pillars. Along one wall there were windows behind which were what appeared to be working spaces undergoing renovation. Behind one of the windows sat a young woman. She was just sitting there from what I could tell. There was the little half circle opening at the bottom of the window panel, large enough to slip an envelope or a cup of coffee through. Eventually, I was standing at her window and I caught her eye, smiled, and said, “I’ll have a hot dog and some fries, please.”

She smiled. We chuckled and then the line moved and so did I. That was the highlight of the day for me. Not sure about her.

jury-selection-1It’s a tad funny though. I am referencing the instructions which encouraged getting there a bit early to navigate security only, in reality, to be on time to stand in a very, very, very long line. We were in line to get our “number.” I was prospective juror number 98.

It took 40 minutes before the line of people ended up in one of two courtrooms. We sat there on wood benches or hard plastic office chairs, nearly shoulder to shoulder and waited for this jury duty thing to begin.

There were at the time, two women (court clerks?) sitting behind a dark wood barrier, and three, if not four, sheriffs. In the middle of the room was a television screen and, slow in the head as I am, it took me a while to realize we would be watching and listening on the television. The judge and the opposing counsels were in the other court room.

None of the staff said much about what was going to happen. A woman sitting on the opposite side of the room asked if someone could explain what was going to happen. We were told we would find out later. So we sat there. Bottled water was made available to us. There was a smattering of talking here and there, but mostly we just sat there and waited, our faces pointed at the court staff and sheriffs who basically were just sitting there waiting, too.

About 30 minutes later, out of the blue, we are told to all stand up, grab our belongings, and leave the court room and that after a few minutes we could come back inside. Quite a few of us looked around at one another, as if to make sure we had heard the same thing and weren’t delusional or unwitting characters in some Monty-Python-like satire on the judicial system.

Like true Canadians, we rose, gathered up our meagre belongings and made our way into the hallways and stood like restless yet polite statues until we heard the all clear signal and returned from whence we came. We were never told why this short-lived exodus was necessary. I still have no clue.

We settled back in and it was maybe 10 minutes later when the judge appeared on television. He was a man with silver-white hair, defined features, a friendly voice and as he spoke and later listened to jurors make their case for being exempted, I saw a kindness in him that for some odd reason surprised me. A kind judge? Really?

Oh the biases that flow through our veins only to be shattered by experience!

I liked him, and truth be told all of the court room staff and sheriffs were convivial and helpful once there was actually something to do. They horsed around a bit and shared some humorous exchanges with some of us. I still felt uncomfortable and impatient but I have no complaints about the staff or the judge. They all came off as good people.

The judge spent a good twenty minutes explaining what was going to happen over the course of the day. Short story is they needed 28 people of the 300 in the room to sit on two juries (each with 12 jurors and two alternates, for those doing the math) for two court cases, one that would last into March and another that was expected to go about a week to ten days.

(That’s when I gulped.)

rime-clipart-trial-by-jury-2Basically the clerk in the other room called out 15 to 20  numbers by rolling some kind of bin — I imagined something you might see in a bingo hall — and picking a number, then rolling again and picking a number, and so on and so on. If your number was called you were to go stand in front of the courtroom where the judge was presiding, turn your back to him and face the prosecution and defense teams, with at least 200 other prospects watching from the galley.

My number came up in the fifth round. Until my turn came I watched the judge on television talk to those asking to be exempted from jury duty. Most of it was an exchange of whispers, out of respect for privacy. With maybe one or two exceptions he granted the exemptions. I couldn’t make out what happened to those who didn’t request one, but something was going down. There were numerous muffled voices, all owned by lawyers, and I assumed decisions were being made about the acceptability of the person standing in front of them.

I finally got my turn. I stood in the big court room facing the lawyers and the crowd and watched as others up there with me went before the judge or stood in front of the lawyers. The judge talked with people like I described earlier, but here’s the thing about the others who faced the lawyers.

All each person did was stand there. They were not asked one question. Then that prospective juror was dismissed because opposing counsels never once agreed. One would say yes, the other would say no. Their rationale? Who knows? But apparently a court of law is where it is common place to judge a book by its cover.

How does one select a jury of the defendant’s peers by looking at them for a few seconds? Earlier, the judge advised us not to take rejection personally, but come on. It can’t feel good to be denied one’s civic duty based solely on appearance. Besides, in other realms, wouldn’t that be illegal or at least frowned upon?

I was a bit shocked by it, to be honest, but 10 minutes later, after a successful appeal to the judge, I walked away, with a bit of a what-the-hell-just-happened look on my face, relieved to be taking the elevator back down to the real world I was accustomed to.

There was no way I could sit on a jury for ten days or into March. I explained why to the judge. He understood and set me free.

Here’s what I am wondering.

Why can’t going down to the courthouse for jury duty be more engaging, more convivial, less threatening, and more efficient? In this day and age of self-driving automobiles and flying objects 10 years-old fly in fields and around their neighbourhoods, there has to be a software program to replace rolling that bingo drum to pick numbers from. Flash-boom, there they are on the big screen. See your number, scoot over to the judge, and let’s get on with the doing some selecting and exempting. I bet that technology would shave two hours off the experience.

Maybe this is a wild idea or perhaps is sourced in my phobia of lines, but might it be possible to instruct half of us to show up at 8:30 and the other half be told to arrive at 9:00? Shorter lines for everyone and it would take no longer than the current process. In fact, do we really need to be there that early if things don’t begin until closer to 10 a.m.?

Now I don’t really understand how courts do what courts do or what demands and responsibilities staff face over the course of the work week. I imagine there is a ton of stuff to do, much of it exacting and taxing work, but at the very least, for what it it’s worth, the optics were not all that good. The judicial system came off as sluggish and backward. There were substantive periods of time when staff were basically doing little, if anything, other than being in the same room with us. It’s the kind of optics frustrated people share on Twitter and Facebook.

Yeh, I didn’t care much for the experience. But you know what? I hope I get another summons a few years down the road when I am no longer so busy and so damn important. I will shave, polish my shoes, put on my lucky green shirt and my comfy black slacks and go on down and stand straight before the lawyers, conjure up the best-ever pick me face and hope I look like the juror both sides want on their side.

I probably won’t like the process of getting there.

But I would like to sit on a jury. It’s important and despire my previous commentary, it would be an honor to do so.


Living Wage IN a Livable Economy

Originally posted in November 2018 on the Edmonton CDC Blog.

In Edmonton, approximately 140,000 workers are identified as low income earners (earning below $16.31 per hour), according to the Edmonton Social Planning Council (source, page 79). Four in five of these workers are over the age of 20 and 60% are women.

The Canadian Payroll Association’s annual survey of Canadian workers identifies that in any given year 45% to 50% of workers across our nation are living pay check to pay check and would face significant hardships, including the loss of their residence, if they went without their pay check for one or two pay periods.

These two sets of data are not indicative of an economy that is working for the majority of Canadians. While businesses may report continued increases in profits and gains for shareholders, this data questions those who laud our economy as strong, vibrant, and sustainable.

For more than a decade, communities across Canada have been setting a “living wage” for their community and advocating for employers to adopt the “living wage” as the minimum hourly wage that they pay their employees. Key players in the development of the fledgling living wage movement have included the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Tamarack Institute’s Vibrant Communities Canada, Vibrant Communities Calgary, Vibrant Abbotsford, the Living Wage for Families Campaign, and Living Wage Hamilton.

A “living wage” is different than the “minimum wage”. The minimum wage is legislated by governments, while a living wage is voluntary and based on what workers in a family must earn to pay for the “basic cost” of living in their community. The primary focus has been on identifying a living wage for two parents (both working full-time) who have one child in full time day care and one child in before and after-school care.

This means that the living wage is contextual to the cost of living in a specific community and to the configuration of a family. This results in varying living wages across Canada. In Edmonton, there are three living wage benchmarks (Source: Tracking the Trends 2018, Edmonton Social Planning Council).

  • $16.31 per hour for each parent working full time in a two parent, two child family as described above.
  • $17.87 per hour for a single mom, age 31, working full time with a three-year old
  • $17.59 per hour for a single person living on her/his own, working full-time.

It is heartening to see communities collaborate on helping workers make a decent living. The uptake of a “living wage” so far has had some success. Most businesses that pay their employees a “living wage” are smaller businesses, but also include some funders, non-profits, and a few municipalities. So far, the biggest non-government employer to pay its employees a living wage or better is Van City, a credit union in British Columbia.

That said, there are challenges, if not significant issues, with the efficacy of the living wage when one considers the following:

  • The calculation of the living wage is based on family archetypes, which is understandable as a method, but it is also true that each family is different from the other. Archetypes are not reality.
  • Employers do not hire employees or set wages based on family configuration.
  • National employers typically do not have varying rates of pay based on geographic location of their employees.
  • The “living wage” movement faces the major barrier of the private sector’s significant opposition to increases in the minimum wage.
  • The current and accepted framework for identifying a living wage is based on assumptions and values that call into question what the word “living” actually means and that exclude numerous categories of expenses that in effect perpetuate an Us versus Them mindset (see below)

According to Living Wage Canada, these are the guiding principles for identifying a living wage:

  • enables working families to have sufficient income to cover reasonable costs;
  • promotes social inclusion;
  • supports healthy child development principles;
  • ensures that families are not under severe financial stress;
  • is a conservative, reasonable estimate;
  • engenders significant and wide-ranging community support; and
  • is a vehicle for promoting the benefits of social programs (e.g., child care).

Based on these principles, the living wage calculations being made across Canada factor in the following, according to Living Wage Canada (source):

  • A healthy family of four with two children
  • 1 child in full-time daycare, 1 in before and after-school care
  • Full-time hours of employment between two parents (What constitutes full-time hours varies across Canada but is typically between 35-40 hours.
  • One parent taking evening courses at a local college to improve employment capacity
  • Costs of living including transportation, food, rental housing, clothing, childcare, medical expenses and other
  • Inclusion of tax credits, returns and government benefits; namely child tax benefits

Calculating the living wage also considers what is not included as expenses in setting the benchmark, as follows:

  • Credit card, loan or other debt/interest payments
  • Savings for retirement
  • Owning a home
  • Savings for children’s future education
  • Anything beyond minimal recreation, entertainment and holidays
  • Costs of caring for a disabled, seriously ill, or elderly family member
  • Anything other than the smallest cushion for emergencies or hard times

I assume these exclusions are based on the principle of coming up with “a conservative, reasonable estimate” and perhaps engendering “significant and wide-ranging community support.” In doing so, however, the living wage inadvertently creates a “different” class of worker who should not expect to own a home, carry any debt, save or the future of their children’s education or for their own retirement. These exclusions are value-laden.

I wonder if the focus on income programs like welfare rates, AISH pensions, minimum wage, and living wage (in its current form) naturally create and perpetuate a landscape that focuses on providing less to low income persons and those living in poverty than the mainstream would identify as the basic cost of living. In effect are identifying a living wage goal that has negative implications for the future of living wage earners.

As mentioned above, the living wage benchmark is not going to result in employers paying varying rates based on family configuration. And perhaps the most significant problem of the living wage movement is that its existence leads people and organizations to conclude that the current approach to improving wages for workers is actually the model to emulate going forward.

I wonder if a better way to look at wages is to explore what a “livable economy” looks like, which would be an economy that is profitable for the private sector, benefits the majority of workers and provides a standard of living that not only meets basic needs but also the needs workers have with respect to their future and the future of their children.


  • Rather than focus on a living wage for workers, should we be exploring what a “Livable Economy” is or should be, a robust economy that includes profitable businesses and an equitable share of business prosperity by workers?
  • Should a livable economy have principles that includes the ethics of business and work?
  • What would be the major attributes, features, elements of a livable economy that differentiates it from the current economy?
  • Should a livable economy work for the majority? And how would it address the needs of those who are unable to work full time, part time or at all?
  • Could it be that current tools and measures used to assess poverty rates (e.g., Low Income Measure) present and perpetuate unintended barriers to identifying what a livable income could or should be for workers?
  • Should there be an alternative to the current methodology in identifying a living wage across Canadian communities based on the principle of “equitable prosperity” and other principles that ensure that all workers cannot only have a decent economic life currently but also see the possibility of prosperity in their futures?
  • To what extent do government subsidies promote or pose obstacles to the concept of a livable economy? For example, do benefits like the Child Tax Benefit unintentionally serve as rationale employers can use to keep wages low?
  • How do we address common perceptions that increased wages do the following:

o   translate into fewer jobs paying more

o   companies providing less training and support

o   translate into fewer available hours of work

o   result in higher prices for goods and services, which offset the benefit of higher incomes

o   negatively impact small businesses that cannot afford higher wages

The Edmonton CDC, in collaboration with others, hopes to undertake investigation to what wages should or could look like in a livable economy that works for the majority of Canadian families and individuals. I hope to report more on this work in the future.

Collective Impact as Uprising

I have written in the past about what I call the pendulum swing or the bandwagon effect. I think this is what has happened with respect to collective impact over the past 10 years. I suggest it also occurred  in the late 1980s when outcome measurement rode into town on its stallion named Logic Model. And it is also happening with the word, “movement.” Today, just about everything is a movement. Also see Collective Impact: Watch out for the Pendulum Swing (click image below for the paper), a piece I wrote for Tamarack in 2015 while I was the CEO of Bissell Centre.

Click Image for Paper

I am simultaneously a proponent and opponent of collective impact. I do not think large-scale change efforts have to embrace the CI framework but also think CI can help create large-scale change. It all depends on how committed folks are to truly changing themselves and their organizations and how well they design and execute their collective efforts. Continue reading Collective Impact as Uprising

My Basketball Coach

I have always been tall and husky.  I was my current height, 6 foot 7 inches, in my freshman year of high school, and I was a basketball player and I was pretty good at that game. Back then a guy my size was automatically assigned the center position.  And that’s where my coach put me – in the center of the action. Today most guards in the pros are taller than I am.

I was a good passer and had a half decent hook shot and turn around jumper, but I felt out of sorts as the team’s center. I really wanted to play the forward position. I dribbled rather well for a big guy and I could shoot well from a distance.  In fact, I could hit from three-point range before there was a three-point rule. I knew I could score more and pass even better as a forward, but I said nothing.

Continue reading My Basketball Coach

Upside Down Thinking: Funders should be Rebels

Funders should apply to community agencies to fund them.

Can you get your head around that?

What would that look like?

Why would that approach be more impactful and cost-effective than current practice?

Would this upside down version of funders foster more partnerships?

Would there be a transformative power-shift?

One of my favorite upside down thinking heretical proposition is that funders should apply to organizations to fund them.

Yeh, imagine that. What funder will step up to lead that rebellion?

I am as certain as you are we will never have a ubiquitous funding system where funders write proposals to community groups hoping to be chosen to invest in their work. But perhaps innovative ideas have more of a chance when we suspend certainty and embrace a wild idea or allow ourselves a bit of time to consider a heretical proposition. Continue reading Upside Down Thinking: Funders should be Rebels

Data and Wisdom

When we look to another for wisdom, it is not data that we seek.

We want more than information; we need more.

We deserve more.

Data sends signals, whether standing on its own before us or alongside of  its counterparts on a trend line or a scatter diagram.

Data may be objective, though I tend to think not. Data on its own is just data; for it to have meaning requires our engagement of it. How could it be “objective”? Data just is. Continue reading Data and Wisdom

Why are we here?

Such a simple question, four small words that get at the core of our community change work.

It’s not a question confined to a step in a visioning or planning process. It’s place is within us, no matter where we are going or if we are standing still.

It’s not just a question about purpose or vision. It is also inquiry into who we are and how coming together around something that matters to all of us might change us. After all, change of any size is made by people; the changes they make only occur because of the changes within themselves. Continue reading Why are we here?

Disruptive Innovation: a Type of Upside Down Thinking

Upside Down Thinking has a relationship with Disruptive Thinking and Disruptive Innovation, but they are not merely different descriptors of the same thing. You can read a previous posting I did a while back on Upside Down Thinking; this posting is about Disruptive Innovation.

Disruptive Innovation has its roots in the private sector. The concept was first articulated by Harvard professor, Clayton Christensen in 1995 who defined it as “an innovation [that] transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.” [1]

According to Christensen, there are two fundamental aspects of a disruptive innovation. It either provides a low cost alternative aimed at a segment of the market that the dominate players are not focusing on; or it actually creates a brand new market that is also typically a lower cost alternative in the market place

Consider the disruptive innovation that changed how we “rent” movies. Remember Blockbuster? Continue reading Disruptive Innovation: a Type of Upside Down Thinking


I was at the gathering where Premier Notley and Minister Sabir announced legislation that would improve benefits to recipients of AISH. I support these improvements (read more). My math indicates a 6% increase to the AISH benefit. Some critics say it should have been higher, given the length of time since the last increase. Some say the government could have brought in these changes earlier.

Of course there are others who would choose to reduce AISH benefits while increasing the coffers of the wealthy through tax breaks.

Everybody’s got their opinion on how things should be if they were in charge. If only Premier Notley and her colleagues could accommodate all of us!

I see the changes as a positive development, an additional program reform that will help vulnerable Albertans. I wish the bump had been bigger, but the government has a budget to contend with. The indexing to the cost of living is an appropriate way to ensure that adjustments are made each year. That’s a big change for the better.

Most of us who work in the community change sector, in particular those who work to end poverty, homelessness, and the poor treatment of the marginalized are expressing support for the government’s actions. Some are celebrating it.  Sure, I will clink a glass or two to celebrate the changes, but let’s make sure we see this change as a strong beginning to a path forward toward further reform. We are not done yet, right?

I saw one suggestion via Twitter that folks on AISH should receive the equivalent to the minimum wage that the government requires employers to provide. At 35 hours a week that would amount to $27,300 per year. The increased AISH benefit translates to an annual income of $20,220. There is merit in this idea. If  one believes that an Albertan worker should be entitled to a minimum wage of $15 per hour, why are people on AISH deserving of less? On the other hand, $20,220 is above the poverty line (as of 2015) of $18,213.

The problem with poverty lines is that they are about subsistence in the present. They do not factor in the future of recipients of AISH as they grow older. They do not allow for emergencies in the many forms they manifest in people’s lives. They do not allow saving any money or having the means to do much more than survive.

Survival is not living. Survival is surviving.

AISH should promote more than survival.

What concerns me is that AISH is not really a disability pension that the recipient can count on. Let me provide an example. It’s a real one, not made up. Names have been changed.

John and Mary are married. Mary has a teenage son from a previous marriage and together they have a three year old. Mary is on AISH. Well, actually she is and she isn’t. John has been a low income earner until recently. Each month Mary’s benefit was adjusted (i.e. clawed back) based on John’s monthly income, which varied month to month.

Recently John got a better job that pays reasonably well. His income is still far below the Alberta average, but he is making enough to trigger AISH reducing Mary’s AISH benefit to zero. If one does the math for this family, it is in effect no farther ahead than then when John earned lower wages. I am not suggesting AISH should never be adjusted downward based on family income, but I do wonder if it is appropriate to wipe  it out.

Wiping out the benefit says to Mary, you no longer deserve your own income. You no longer have status with AISH decision-makers and should be happy now being totally dependent on your spouse. And for John who is trying to make a better life for his family, the message is your wife is now your burden. Your extra wages should not benefit your family; they should reduce the cost of Mary on the government.

I have a problem with that.

Doesn’t the claw back marginalize Mary? And John? And their children?

If Mary earned the minimum wage, an employer would not reduce it because John is making more money than he once was.

To be honest, I am not sure how this should work, but how it works now seems wrong to me. AISH recipients are people, not just recipients. Having their income reduced to zero impacts the dignity of people like Mary who want to feel like they are able to contribute to their family’s economic life and future.

Perhaps there are further reforms to consider. Perhaps there is a “middle way” to adjust AISH benefits downward as family income increases. Perhaps there should be a core benefit that never can be eliminated or that should only be eliminated if the family’s income is on par with the average wage of Albertans. Or something like that.

What do you think?

A BIG fail of our Media

Today I attended the announcement by the Alberta Government that it would be raising the AISH benefit by near $100 per month and indexing it to the cost of living from here on out. Premiere Notley spoke. Minister Sabir spoke. A gentleman on AISH spoke. Michael Phair, Co-Chair of End Poverty Edmonton spoke. You can read about these changes HERE.

This announcement, while long over due, is a positive step forward toward treating 250,000 Albertans with due respect. Along with other programs brought in by the government to attack poverty, the announcements today represent one more effort to turn away from marginalizing vulnerable Albertans.

There was a large contingent of media present in the room and via teleconference. One might think that when the media show up to such an announcement they are coming to report on what is being announced. When the floor opened up to questioning, the media decided to hijack the proceedings and grill the Premiere about disgruntled MLA Robyn Huff who was booted from caucus. She has indicated that she felt bullied by the Premier and others, although from what I can tell offered no real evidence of bully-ism.

That said, my point is not to weigh in on that situation but to point out how at least four representatives of the media ignored this important announcement about improved income security benefits to 250,000 vulnerable Albertans and, instead,  decided marginalized people like AISH recipients were not worth their time and energy as reporters. Rather, they opted to  assail the Premier with a suprise attack on her character and the character of the government.

Apparently one disgruntled MLA was far more important and newsworthy than the positive impacts the government’s actions will have for a quarter of a million people. Perhaps improving conditions for those living in poverty, for those living with disabilities that disallow them to work are good news stories not worth discussing with the Premier, especially if a reporter might get a feather in her or his cap for somehow getting the Premier to look bad as the leader of our province.

If there was any bullying occurring in the room, it was by the media. It was despicable and a clear statement by the media to 250,000 Albertans that “you do not matter.” It was a shameful act of marginalization.

I was so angry that afterward I went on a rant with the media people who behaved so poorly. They couldn’t even look me in the eye.  I was so angry, I failed to identify who these reporters were, but they know who they are. I can only hope their superiors investigate and make it clear such bad treatment of vulnerable Albertans is not what their media outlet cares to be known for.

Albertans deserve better.

Why do we love bad stories about charities?

A recent headline: “Charity watchdog urges donors to think twice before giving to Calgary Flames Foundation.” Read it here if you haven’t already.

The article does not paint the Flames Foundation in a positive light. That said, I am not here to debate if the foundation is a cash hoarder or an expensive charity. I am wondering why this is the article the Edmonton Journal chose to write.

There are so many incredible stories to tell about the lives changed by charitable work. Stories about people who overcame racism, homelessness, violence, abuse, and on because they received support from a charity.

Often the people helped by a charity live in conditions most of us would find abhorrent. How many us have been beaten up for being any other colour than white? How many of your children go to school hungry? How often have any of “us” charitable types been homeless?

But it appears we like dirty little exposés about charities that frankly become rationale for many to no longer give to charity, though one does wonder if such people ever really gave before. So, a foundation that, according to a charity watchdog, performs below the average of other charities – that’s newsworthy, not the charities that are on the top of their subjective lists of attributes and qualifications.  That is so disappointing.

If you judge charities solely on financial data, ask yourself if that’s how you evaluate for-profit businesses? You don’t care about the quality of their products or services? You just want cheap, cheap, cheap, right? You want low utility prices and would be happy if they were so low that you had unreliable power in your home or business – right? Who cares if your home falls down as long as you got it really cheap, right?

Why is it so many people think charitable work is not worth much? Why is it people who do jobs most of us would never consider doing are supposed to earn the lowest wages possible? Do you not care about them? But want them to care about the homeless and the disenfranchised so you don’t have to?

Some years ago, a colleague working at a major corporation informed me that her business wanted to fund the organization I was leading at the time.  She told me it could be as high as $50,000 but then added, “Of course, we won’t want any our money paying for administration or rent and stuff like that.”

Of course? Really. That should be the norm? Did she want us to go good without lights or heat or the ability to have an accountant or fix the old boiler when it broke down?

That made me angry, the viewpoint and the attitude. I checked myself, took a breath and said to my colleague, “Let’s say I am a customer of yours and you send me your bill and I send it back to you and say, sorry this bill includes your administrative costs. Please resubmit so I am only paying for your service. No rent, nothing else. Would you be amenable to that?”

I got a smile and she nodded her head. “Okay, I get it,” she said.

Maybe she did. Maybe not. But that $50,000 apparently went elsewhere. I was not even invited to submit a proposal. Of course proposals take time and expertise and no one should pay anyone to do that – well, only if you work for a charity, that is.

Charity watchdogs do not measure impact. They do not measure impact because they can’t. They don’t know how, and if they did, it would cost them too much to do that and then we all would have to hope the Edmonton Journal might write a piece about those extravagant charity watchdogs spending all that money on useless stuff. That would be fair, right?