A Recent Rant

Thought I'd share a letter I just sent to Don Surber, an uninformed columnist for the Charleston Daily Mail.

Mr. Surber,

Your comment in the March 5 edition of the Daily Mail that “Nonprofits are the defense contractors of the social services industry,” is offensive and patently absurd. Although the salaries of a few non-profit agency managers have recently drawn criticism and an appropriate degree of scrutiny, these salaries are an anomaly. In reality, employees in the nonprofit sector typically have more education than workers in the government and business sectors, but they are paid much less. For example, according to a study by the N.C. Center for Nonprofits, the average nonprofit employee in North Carolina with a college degree earns 35 percent less than the national average for business and 15 percent less than government.

Your comments are stereotypical and beg similar comparisons of your work to the “journalists” and “columnists” who work for tabloids such as the National Enquirer or Weekly World News. At least the tabloids do not claim credibility on issues for which they have no knowledge. The Daily Mail once had credibility, but comments such as yours, which have no basis in reality, lead me to consider more appropriate alternative uses of your paper such as lining for a bird cage.

I have dedicated the past ten years of my life helping West Virginians while working for two different non-profit organizations. During that time, I have rejected numerous lucrative offers to work for “for-profit” corporations or for state government. Instead, I have spent my career coordinating various non-profit programs and initiatives at a financial sacrifice for myself and my family. My work has included providing grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects and helping schools and local businesses work together so that WV students succeed. For the past three years, I have had the privilege of coordinating a shelter for runaways and abused youth. Without our program and similar ones across the state, our clients would be forced to remain in abusive and neglectful situations.

Your comparison of my work to that of defense contractors, who have the benefit of no-bid contracts and over-spending with no consequence, is offensive. My organization has to carefully monitor all public funding that it receives and must document how the funding is used for services. The grants we receive are very competitive and require frequent progress reports to the funding source. To my knowledge, Halliburton does not maintain this level of performance or accountability despite receiving multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts. Our organization obtains grants and funding for one purpose -- to help youth and their families who would otherwise be forced to remain in unsafe situations.

Where would our state be without non-profit organizations who can garner private and local support and implement programs in coordination with public initiatives to help the less fortunate? Would you advocate state agencies expand to provide these services without private or local expertise? One size does not fit all when it comes to programs, and large bureaucracies are not the answer. Instead non-profit organizations can respond to local needs and create individual answers to problems we are seeking to address.

I suggest you take the time to visit a non-profit agency or two and witness first-hand the commitment of the people who work there. Their dedication will be self-evident, and I am confident you will reconsider your ludicrous position.


Jim McKay

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