My friend Wayne Elsey is an extraordinary guy. He has built one of the most successful non profit organization in the world. During the last 5 years, Soles 4 Souls has gone from 0 to over a 70-million dollar annual budget organization. I’m thankful to have been a partner from early on. My company, The A Group, has developed soles4souls.org and their online fund-raising site. Wayne has written a book I believe every leader should read, “Almost Isn’t Good Enough.” This is not only his story of starting and growing S4S, but a very practical tool for business and ministry leaders everywhere. Chapter 2 has stuck with me, and I can’t get it out of my mind: Build the Community You Want, Not the One You Can Afford.
According to Elsey, finding the best people for the job and hiring them at competitive wages (competitive with the market place and not other non-profits) is key in building a high performance organization. If you want to make an impact, find the best and pay them well.
That hasn’t been the norm. Usually we find good people and offer them a lot less to work for “a job that matters.” So their choice is either to work for good money at the market place or work for peanuts in ministry or for a not-for-profit. Most heads of ministry justify their low wages on the basis of donor expectations, citing that their donors would be upset if they paid competitive wages. That’s not how Wayne sees it:
I’m growing weary of the long-winded, ill-informed conversations about what donors care about and what they don’t. Donors are not upset and outraged by how much people are paid. Donors want impact, results, and the opportunity to make a larger footprint through your cause or organization. What donors react to negatively is when the lines of expense and impact have been crossed and the net result is more expense than impact.
I think he’s spot on. I tell my clients often that something is only expensive if it doesn’t work. I don’t care how much it costs. A low-wage, low-performance employee is not a cost savings. He’s a liability. I don’t think S4S would be giving out a pair of shoes every 7 seconds if Wayne had surrounded himself with well-meaning and yet low-capacity employees.
How do you feel about ministry or not-for-profit paying competitive wages to their employees?