Q&A: Free Labour

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Culture: People First


Our series continues…

This week’s question comes from Sarah in Vancouver.  She asks, “I’m intrigued by the concept of knowledge philanthropy. However, I feel a little concerned that it’s another way of using people for free labour.”

Thanks for the honest question, Sarah. We acknowledge that there is a real problem in the not-for-profit sector of people being underpaid and undervalued for their contributions. To be very clear, knowledge philanthropy is not about exploiting people in the name of ‘meaning’.  Nor do we consider volunteers ‘free labour’. 

Knowledge philanthropy is about creating roles that are truly based in reciprocity. Both parties must feel valued and genuinely excited to come to the table. Rather than underpaying people for their time and talent, it's about recognizing there is an abundance of people in our communities who are willing – even yearning – to contribute their talent in exchange for a different kind of payment.

It’s about finding the right fit.

Though each individual defines it differently, knowledge philanthropists are always looking for some kind of meaningful experience. For some, that means simply giving back to the community or making a difference to a particular cause. For others, meaning comes from a new experience or opportunity to add to their portfolio or resume. Sometimes, people are looking to stay involved in community after retirement or during maternity leave.

Whatever the payment, knowledge philanthropists are not replacements for salaried employees. The vast majority of knowledge philanthropists are seeking short-term, project-based roles that augment or provide a change from their day-jobs. We realize everyone has to eat and pay the bills and knowledge philanthropy is not a substitute for that. 

Here’s what one of our current knowledge philanthropists, Onboarding Specialist Alison McLeod, said when we asked about her motivations:

“In my role as HR Advisor at SAP, I’m responsible for advising all of our North American employees on HR-related topics. As a result of my passion for onboarding, I have taken on a project with Vantage Point to audit and implement an onboarding strategy.

This project has allowed me to leverage my project management skills, create and design content, and work with inspiring leaders. It has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to utilize my skills and build on the experiences in my working life.”

This is the strength of a people lens culture: it is a winning proposition for everyone. And that means knowledge philanthropists leave each experience feeling thrilled, fulfilled, and deeply valued.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Have a question about building an abundant organization? Send it our way! If we answer it on our blog, we’ll send you a free copy of The Abundant Not-for-Profit.

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