Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Problem With Dan Pallotta

I love Dan Pallotta...obviously.

I first read 'Uncharitable' a few years ago and it had a big impact. It didn't change my life or the way I think, but for the first time I had read someone successfully vocalising what a lot of us had been thinking. He says it better than we ever could. I went on to support his Charity Defense (sic of American spelling) Council and I was delighted to see his recent TED Talk get over a million views and counting. He upstaged Bono.

Dan Pallotta's TED Talk should be required viewing for you,
your staff, your board, your donors, your friends...

Whatever you think of Dan Pallotta and his history and his motivations you can't deny that he has brought a fantastic and important argument to the masses.

But...I believe there is one glaring problem with his argument and a single barrier preventing support from the general public.

When he speaks of the salary difference between the private sector and the charity sector he loses people. He loses people because he's talking about a $400,000 salary compared to a $232,658 salary compared to a $84,028 salary.

The average salary in Ireland is less than €40,000 (less than $50,000) but the majority of the people watching this video, supporting your charity, reading the newspapers, browsing the internet earn less than that. Most of the service staff you deal with in your day to day life are probably on about €20,000 per year. He quotes Business Week while people watching read The Daily Mail.

So when you suggest to people that it's unfair that someone only earns $84k and that they should be allowed to earn more you will almost certainly, instantly lose their support.

The correct argument is of course that nobody should be earning $400,000 or $232,000 or anything near that while there are still people suffering for no reason, people still blind because they can't afford a simple operation and children withering away and dying because they can't afford medication that is over there in that room next to them.

But strangely enough, the people who live on minimum or low wages don't seem to have a problem with the private sector earning these huge wages and being charged inflated prices on everything to pay the salaries of these high earners.

Well, hey...that's just the world we live in.


  1. Hey Simon,

    This 'll have to be a quick reply, but I never said that people "should" earn $400k, like as a matter of morality or anything. My argument is simply this: If you don't start competing with the for-profit sector to get the talent in that range then you're going to lose that talent. And if that talent could help you thrive, that's a big loss to every donor - especially the bank clerk who donates but only earns $30k a year.

    1. I am a giddy schoolgirl that Dan Pallotta replied on my blog!

      Thank you Dan. And yes, you never said "should". But my feeling is that this is what people are hearing - that as soon as many people even hear mention of these huge salaries it becomes completely intangible and they switch off to the rest of your message (which I totally agree with).

      Thanks for taking the time to post.

  2. Interesting Simon, you have a point here - as soon as you mention the salary you will lose people. People are up in arms over bankers, politicians,civil servants etc...earning big bucks. I think there is an assumption that not for profit sector can fall into this category as so many are state funded. I do think the sector can't shy away from the salary debate and need to stand tall and proud and justify salaries that are paid. And when asked by the media what their CEO gets paid, make some real life comparisons that people can relate to.