Save the World Inc.

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Need a summer job to support your unpaid internship? Bwog newbie Sara Jane Panfil tells us why stumping for trees/starving children/cute bunnies may not be the way to go.

jdhI remember being excited to spend the summer in New York, but then summer arrived. Two months in I found myself struggling to stay afloat in my now-shallow pool of friends, and after my third Thursday night Law and Order marathon in a row, I decided that it was time to make some changes in my social life.

I decided to pursue this “more friends” thing by getting a new job, a job that would have a lot of young college people around with things potentially in common with me.  So I was clicking through the Craigslist nonprofit sector and answered an ad for the Human Rights Campaign.  I was wary to begin with, since campaigns and charities are among the worst labor violators in terms of promising to pay their workers and then… not doing it.

But whatever, I decided to check it out.  I get there, and there’s a whole bunch of other people there, too.  The director, Jesse, pops up and talks to all of us and asks each our name and why we’re here (“I’m here because I really believe in the rights of humans!”) with so much enthusiasm that I actually think that I got a little sick to my stomach.  He puts on a video that shows us what we can expect in our new, glamorous lives as campaign canvassers: grabbing the undivided attention of passerbys on the street, alerting them to the problems that the world faces, and then graciously accepting their donation (which, of course, they offer up enthusiastically), smiles on everyones’ faces.  I felt like I was in some sort of cult re-education program, since the video was clearly removed from any sort of reality.

After the video, it was time for the one-on-one portion of the interview. It’s my turn and he asks me, do you have any questions so far?

I’m like, yea, I have a few.

Are we paid even if we don’t fundraise a dollar?

Are we paid for training?  What if we’ve done campaign work before?

What’s your turnover? Why do people leave?

His answers:

Yes, you are guaranteed paid $300 a week–comes down to about $7.50 an hour–even if you don’t fundraise a dollar.  But if you don’t pull in at LEAST $125 bucks PER DAY after a few weeks out of training, then we have to let you go. ($125 bucks per day!?  Sounds a little unreasonable to me.)

No, you are not paid to train.  Yes, training is required.  (Smells like slave labor!)

His answer to my last string of questions was pretty entertaining.  I think he literally squirmed:

“Er, um, well, about 1 in 6 people stay on after the training.” That’s not a lot of people, I’m thinking. “Generally, people only work for us for about a month.” Hmm… two weeks of training plus two weeks on your own…sounds like people are getting fired for not pulling in their outlandish minimums and only getting paid for two weeks of their time.  “But people only WANT to work here for a month, you know how college students are, work for a month and then go to Europe…”

Yea, because I could go to Europe on 600 bucks.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.  Mostly because when he asked me if I was still interested in the position, I said no.  I also asked him to give me back my application, since I wasn’t comfortable with him having my contact information.

Oh, and it also turns out that I was applying to the “Public Interest Fund,” and not to the Human Rights Campaign directly.  The Public Interest Fund apparently works “for” the HRC and gives them money.  The whole thing smelled funny to me.

Oh well, maybe I’ll try Craigslist.

Picture yanked from www.grist.org, which has an excellent piece on the same subject here.

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  1. nice article

    always wondered about those folks. didn't think the pay was that shitty/ a total scam, but you learn something new every day. i always just star at them with a vacant empty look in my eyes.

  2. do you

    remember that new york times article back a few months ago about magazine crews? It sounds so innocuous but apparently they can be abusive, slave laborish schemes that entrap teenagers - to sell magazines like Reader's Digest. Weird world.

  3. Retarded

    Why look for a job in the non-profit sector if all you're really concerned about is the pay? How retarded is that? Surely you realize that most part-timers in that sector aren't all that concerned about a financial payoff?

    • What?

      The author wasn't looking for an I-banker's salary, just a living wage and job stability. If an NGO can't even offer that, it definitely needs some change in management. If NGO work becomes (or has already become) the sector for people who aren't at all concerned about their paycheck, I guess we'll be having only the wealthiest of the wealthy fight the good fight. Yeah, that's not "retarded."

      • Sorry...

        ...but like it or not, as New York City becomes more and more outlandishly, absurdly expensive, the only people who will be able to subsist on the paycheck offered by any non-profits are those who are independly wealthy. Same with those who plan on nabbing an entry-level job in anything having to do with the arts in New York City (or basically, anything besides finance). Why do you think I-banking has become such an appealing option for recent grads? Because it is quickly becoming the only way to live in New York City while also making enough money to take advantage of what New York City is supposed to offer (aka, all the reasons we all wanted to be here in the first place). When you make 25K before taxes, you sure as hell aren't going to be going out to plays, concerts, and good restaurants more than once in a blue moon.

        Now I'm just rambling. But you get it. Nonprofits are for (good-hearted?) Paris Hiltons, I-banking is for...pretty much everyone else.

  4. is 'homo' still in?

    maybe i'm crazy but i can't believe anyone still uses the word 'homo' outside of... god... frat parties? in texas? oh! and i think hipster kids use it for that extra splash of irony but.... outside of those situations? really?

  5. yeah

    I heard tell Sara Jane Panfil is a homo sapiens, and maybe even a homo sapiens sapiens.

  6. i think

    it's inconceivable that someone would actually in this day and age actually call someone a homo with any degree of seriousness or earnestness. number five was going for extreme irony, probably. otherwise, he/she has had their head stuck up their ass for a very long time.

  7. um, hi:

    I work for a non-profit as an assistant and nonetheless make a decent wage. With some frugality, we too can enjoy all the city has to offer (gasp).
    However, it's totally true that most TEMPORARY NGO/non-profit jobs (i.e. one that a college student would get over the summer) pay next to nothing. Does SEAS still offer the "community service learning internship?" For one semester, I got paid $3,000 as a CC student to edit SEAS kids' papers, and do some research for them. In lieu of a full-time, permanent job, that was the easiest summertime spending money EVER.

  8. If you

    want to change the world, be a prostitute. The more clean prostitutes we have, the fewer STDs will be spread. And if you're any good, the pay isn't so bad either.

  9. exaggerations

    No one posting on this blog has or will ever experience "slavery" or "slave laborish" conditions, so let's stop tossing around these words like we have it so bad. If you work for no pay and have shitty housing, it's called being a student intern and living in Wien.

  10. when

    i use the phrase 'that's totally gay' i always feel a little awkward. so i add 'and by gay, i mean bad.'

  11. alum

    welcome to the world. it's either cruel or stupid. take your pick.

  12. still retarded

    The point I was making is that most people know that part-time, summer work with NGOs are mostly done either to gain experience or with altruistic motives. Permanent positions in NGOs pay a decent wage. Besides, the $300/week covers the basic living wage and, frankly, if it made you sick that your manager's chief motive here was a belief in universal human rights, you're in the wrong place. Go swipe cards in Carman.


    Hey, what happened to that post about free hotdogs and beer?

  14. OOSAM!

    "if you're not a homosemantic, you're at least bilingual!"

  15. please guys

    next time you use a pejorative insult in an attempt to cast a shadow onto your target's reputation and/or character, make sure it's not one that somebody might get offended by

  16. hey

    all wimps please go away

  17. haha

    hahahaha....oh columbia...the conversations you have...

  18. Well...

    The point is that NGOs pay enough for a recent graduate with reasonable requirements for their standard of living to get by, but not necessarily enough for one to, long term, support a family, pay for college for your kids and cover healthcare etc.

  19. i don't really see

    what NGOs or non-profits have to do with this. you were applying for a job as a canvasser--it's a shitty, shitty job, regardless of how good a cause it might be for. why would you think that asking people for money to advance gay rights is any different than asking them for money in exchange for magazine subscriptions?

    the real thing to note is not that canvassing is a shitty job, which, duh, could you possibly imagine walking around asking strangers for money would be anything besides horrible, but instead, that it is extremely dumb to make charitable donations through canvassers, because a big portion of your check is going to fundraiser, not to the actual charity. so if anybody on the street convinces you that HRC (or whatever group) is really worthy, you should just mail them a check and cut out the middleman.

  20. andrew

    speaking as a person who has done canvassing for two consecutive summers and some miscellaneous other times in the past couple years, I would say that there is some truth to these criticisms. However, in comparison with other low-wage employment, canvassing really isn't all that bad. As a door-to-door canvasser, assuming you know how to do your job and make quota ($150/day, which is doable), you bring home 85$/day. While with transportation, training, and lunch your day lasts from 1-10, you really only canvass from 4:30 to 9, for four hours of actually intensive work. Not bad if you think about it.

    It is true that a lot of money goes to canvassers, although it is not valid to both complain about how bad a job it is and how canvassers get too much money at the same time. However, obviously these organizations have found canvassing to be an effective method of fundraising because of the sheer number of people they can get involved. You also have to feel some sort of solidarity with the canvasser, who after all is constantly worrying about quota and such, and probably does feel strongly about what they are advocating for.

    This said, canvassing is not a viable grassroots organizing strategy and doesn't succeed at getting people profoundly involved. It is a fundraising strategy, and a successful one.

  21. your comments


  22. Honestly

    Bwog, there hasn't been a new article in 2 days. All I have to read is this human rights bullshit. Give me something new! I'm an intern at a law firm for christ's sake and I have nothing better to do than go on Bwog or wikipedia. New articles PLEASE.

  23. ZvS

    $85 a day for raising $150 a day? Maybe I should start my own charity and cut out the $65 middleman.

  24. Not-So-Ignorant

    I like how #8 assumes that I-Banking is the only occupation that pays well in NYC. Open your eyes a little and you'll find there are plenty of jobs that pay surprisingly well, especially those with non-traditional hours.

  25. rjt

    I did this for two days. It was much worse and made me feel much dirtier than the original post implied. You are basically taught to willfully misinform people as much as possible without lying to get their money. People who stay on are just really good at it and I think could only possibly stay because if you're good, you can make loads of money. There is absolutely no honor or real political accomplishment.

  26. Hey Zeus

    I have a solution: Eat Peace.

  27. DHI

    I hear jobs in the tycoon sector pay extraordinarily well, and it's a surprisingly diverse field, as indicated by the different "Tycoon" computer games.

  28. Zach

    I freelance and do pretty OK with it. You can't manage to send an email or two during the day?

    I was a waiter too, that was sweet money. But you have to work pretty hard, and if you have another job... I know I didn't have that much energy. Maybe you should quit the non-waitering job, really.

  29. not clueless  

    god do you need an article to tell you that its not worth it? There is an immense amount of shady money handling in that field. Only a few organizations are worthy. Lifeguarding is the way to go if you know how to swim. the city's is always in need since a lot of manhattanites dont know how to swim. sometimes a place will pay for your red cross training. plus they should never pay under 10/hr. fuck waitressing and bartending. unless you know someone who will give you a job the search is mainly painful and fruitless. Non-profits usually have enough of a soul that they will pay you a little. Also, how about not settling for an internship that doesnt pay you. Unpaid internships should be illegal. Also tempjobs are good. You get assigned an agent that you mainly have to convince that you are boring and simple enough to sit in an office all day long shuffling papers, because no salaried employee in their right mind wants to do it. Bicycle messengering is good also if you arent afraid of midtown. Most of all have some pride and confidence, but not too much or else they will probably think you are an ivy league snob. Its better to beg your parents or use a credit card for a little, while you search for something better.

  30. MattSanchez

    Liberals beware. These are people who are advocating for "human rights" but they have no problem not living up to any of the standards they claim to espouse.

    Maybe it's because they know they have gullible kids whose mommy and daddy will pick up the bills why they waste their time proving to the world how magnaminous they are?

    From Afghanistan (where there are REALLY people in need)

    Matt Sanchez

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