We’ve been talking about our habits around scarcity – behaving as if there is never enough. Enough of anything.

Well, here’s a guy who thinks there’s plenty. And I think he’s right.

Though I was originally puzzled by the blog titled Nonprofit With Balls, I read one of the wonderful posts and I had to investigate to find out what’s with the name? Okay, quirky is good. So I feel okay taking some effort to promote this guy. Look at what he wrote after the stunning Super Bowl loss and what that can teach even us non-football types about working at DV programs.


It’s the new year. Happy 2015!

A perfect time for reflection. And for change.

This past year, we had some great conversation about organizational habits and how our habits impact the bold change we envision.

Remember – a habit is an unconscious repetitive act.

Do we as domestic violence programs do what we do out of bold vision and resolve, or out of habit?

In June we will be hearing about recommendations for bold change and new vision. Will we change as we want to, or fall back into habits.

For your reading pleasure, two books that illuminate different things about habits and overcoming the unconscious nature of them.


immunity to change

Creatures of the Night: Changing After-Hours Staffing

Good Jobs logo for printThis month’s Good Jobs blog post is by Emilie McLarnan, Assistant Director at Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.

photo by darwin Bell

photo by darwin Bell

After-hours crisis response is a crucial service we provide to the community. Our agency is a tri-service (domestic violence, sexual assault and crime victims) agency, operating a confidential shelter and straddling state lines. We are fortunate in that we have a healthy roster of trained volunteers taking the hotline nightly, freeing staff to do the in-person response when needed.

Since our shelter operates at a separate location from our offices, we have typically had shelter staff members perform back-up (our agency term for on-call) duties for the shelter location including after hours intakes and responding to shelter emergencies. Office-based staff usually covers any non-shelter related response: forensic exams, DV calls to the ER, responding to the police department, etc. Oh, and the Executive Director or Assistant Director alternate weeks of being on back-up for those strange situations that might need extra guidance or insight. This system has worked fairly well in the past, but last year we started to take a closer look at how back-up was going.

When we first started discussing the idea of shifting from separate shelter and office back-up to a system where this is a shared duty amongst all staff, I must admit, I was very leery of the idea. After all, shelter staff knows the many ins and outs of shelter, and office staff is fluent in the ways of community advocacy. But we realized the idea was worth considering if making a simple change could decrease the number of staff on back-up from four every night to three. While we consider providing after hours services an important part of what we do at ATVP, we are also aware of the burden it can be for staff and the budget. This change would shift shelter staff from being on back-up several nights per week, to expanding our team and ensuring no more than 4 to 5 one week shifts per person, per year. That’s a big difference!

How did we get here? We realized that some careful analysis of our procedures and our data had the potential to inform wise changes that could benefit staff and not impact the survivors we serve. A major concern was what to do if there is more than one call out at the same time? So we started by analyzing our afterhours activity. When we looked we realized that in the past year we had no incidents of multiple callouts at once, and no middle-of-the-night shelter intakes. To be sure, there were a couple of weekends with 3 or 4 calls to the hospital, and of course there were times the shelter alarm went off and staff had to make sure everything was alright. But overall, our perception was worse than reality.

When we decided to make this change, we pulled together a small team to go over the essential paperwork and information that all our team would need. We went over this with staff, giving them plenty of time to think of questions and concerns. At a recent retreat we spent most of the day training each other on after-hours response. There was plenty of time to ask questions, share concerns, role play, and troubleshoot. By the end of the day, the general consensus was that people felt more secure in their abilities in this area. Office staff will all be trained at the shelter and shelter staff will follow up with lingering questions on forensic exams. July 1st is the starting point for this new venture- we will see how it goes!

Survey Says!?…

family feud

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Did you know that WSCADV administered a Wages & Benefits Survey in 2011? I know, I know. Many of you have already seen it. But I often hear from folks who haven’t seen it or did not know about it. So, take a look at the 2011 Wages & Benefits Survey Summary (or refresh your memory). 266 employees and directors from 56 programs responded representing all 39 of Washington’s counties.There’s a lot of interesting information about wages and benefits (shocking!), but also information about job satisfaction, and job flexibility.

But… 2011 was a long time ago (you might say). Yes, this survey was indeed administered over 3 years ago. I’ve heard from some that you need more up-to-date information to share with your Boards and to inform the decisions you are making about good jobs at your agencies. Well, fret no more! WSCADV will be re-administering the Wages and Benefits survey in late 2014 or early 2015. This survey will be similar so that we can compare apples to apples, but we have some room to improve or expand upon the information we would like to gather.

So what do you want to know? Take a look at the 2011 Wages & Benefits Survey Summary and let us know what is missing. What do you want to know more or less about? We want the results of this survey to be informative and useful to you. Tell us what you think!

Negotiation: A Magical Solution?

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This month’s Good Jobs blog post is by Megan Dorwin, an MSW student at the University of Washington and an intern at WSCADV.

photo by Glenn Sapaden

photo by Glenn Sapaden

I recently attended an event for social workers on wage negotiation. I came to that event to learn how to present myself as a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated employee package that employers would want. Instead, I was told to be thankful for the job offer and remember I’m not in this field to make money! In other words, don’t negotiate. As you might imagine, I came away with conflicting feelings about how to progress in my job search. But it got me thinking about how complex the issue really is, and how hard it is for both workers and organizations to navigate.

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the root cause of the gender wage gap. The most recent fad seems to indicate that simply teaching women concrete negotiation skills will help them earn similar wages as men. If you follow a few simple steps and embrace female stereotypes of femininity, you too can take charge of your financial future.And while it’s true that negotiation is a factor in the wage gap, it is not the silver bullet for ending wage disparities that the media would have you believe.

A variety of factors impact wage disparities, including the kind of industry in which a woman is being hired to and who is doing the hiring (and where his or her personal biases are when it comes to assertive women). While women face similar experiences of socialization that impact their relationship with wage negotiation, there’s a difference between women getting hired in the for-profit sector and in the non-profit sector. In for-profit companies workers are expected to negotiate wages and benefits. This helps workers feel valued and supported in the workplace, allowing them to receive a fair wage for their education and experiences and creating a sense of ownership which can lead to happier workers who are more invested in the company.

Women in non-profit work, however, face organizational cultures where negotiation is not expected. Organizations are operating with limited budgets and workers are often pressured to take what they’re offered. There’s a push-pull internal dialogue that occurs for many women in this field between their dedication to the work and their financial demands. It goes something like this: This is good work. Important- no- vital to my community. I went back to school to make how much? I’ll have to get organized with my budget. But it’s a great organization and this is what I want to do…It’s an either-or mindset that pits quality services against quality pay and benefit packages for staff.   I would like to push back on this dichotomy, because I believe it’s possible for organizations to pay a wage that reflects their workers’ expertise and ensures financial stability.

So please share with us, as leaders in this movement, how are you creating a culture of openness that encourages negotiation within your organizations? How are your agencies balancing limited resources and providing good jobs? Do we really have to choose between services for survivors and a well-paid staff

(Do we, says the woman who is currently looking for a job in the field :) )?

We know the wage gap exists for many reasons, some of which include socialization, pregnancy and parenthood, fear of retribution, messages about organizational culture, and career trajectory.  The argument that providing women with skills for wage negotiation will lead to a decrease in wage disparities is simply wrong. No one cause can be blamed for the gap and no one solution will resolve it.

P.S. Here’s a brilliant video to shed some light on pay disparities and hopefully bring a smile to your face. Disney Princesses for Equal Pay – need I say more?

Hiking the Minimum Wage (and Living To Tell About It)


photo by Michael Fleshman

photo by Michael Fleshman

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This month’s post is written by a staff member at a local DV/SA agency who wishes to remain anonymous.

My goal in writing is to urge us to critically think about how our efforts at promoting social and economic justice can have unintended consequences.  The State of Washington is considering a minimum wage hike, as are a few individual cities. I’ll get to more on this in a moment, but here’s my story.

I work at a domestic violence and sexual assault agency that is part of a much larger, diverse organization populated by programs with unequal funding sources and different requirements for service provision. My program in particular is struggling financially due to the loss of DV/SA grant funding. When planning this year’s budget with my finance director, we based the final budget not only on the funding realities we faced but also with the knowledge that the entire organization was facing a major increase in health insurance benefit costs.

On top of increased health insurance costs and loss of funding, my agency implemented both a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and a step increase. We learned in late December (and of course after we had established our budget) that those increases would go into effect January 1, 2014. Because we are all on the same salary structure, my program could not elect to exempt our staff from this salary increase. And unlike for-profit businesses that can pass rising costs onto their consumers by increasing the price of their products, we do not charge for our services by law, by design, and by principle.

For us, this meant that we needed to decrease our costs immediately. But how? The vast majority of our budget goes to salaries and benefits. All of our services require people: providing shelter and legal advocacy services, , assisting survivors with transportation and childcare, , providing advocacy-based counseling, coordinating systems on their behalf, and documenting it all. We had already trimmed our operating costs to the bare minimum by reducing our office space and eliminating any extraneous expenses. When there were no other costs to cut, only salaries and benefits were left.

I considered three options. First, I could require every staff member to take 18 furlough days per year. Second, I could lay off a single full-time person. Last, I could move the full-time staff to part-time at 38 hours per week. The cost of these lost hours closely mirrored their pay increase, which meant their take-home pay would stay the same (and cost them much less than 18 furlough days). We would also only lose fourteen hours per week of staff time rather than forty. However, three of our staff would lose paid health insurance benefits for their families. After considering all the angles, it seemed like there was only one practical option: to reduce full-time staff’s hours to 38 per week.. And so it went.

I lost a lot of sleep over this.

It is difficult to devote your life to promoting social justice and then find yourself doing something you never imagined – and to people about whom you care. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, but it was our reality. And our reality can change when we work to build a better future. I need to work with my organization and my community to find ways to do just that.

Before December I would have been completely on board with the minimum wage hike proposals. However, the effect of a sudden increase in costs on our program gives me pause.

My concern is about whether or not the act of increasing the minimum wage will by itself truly move us toward social and economic justice. If human service organizations have no immediate way to make up for their increased costs except by decreasing staff – and thereby their level of service provision – then what will have been accomplished? Human services are desperately needed by the people we serve. So what can we do? Ideas I have considered are as follows:

  • Allow non-profit and human service organizations to implement minimum wage increases over time.
  • Continually support legislation and policies that address bloated healthcare costs and inefficiencies in our health care and health insurance systems.
  • Encourage the government to commit to funding us like they do other federal programs. I consider DV/SA and other human service programs to be a hybrid of FEMA and the CDC. Like FEMA we address social hurricanes and tornadoes, and defunding us would be like defunding FEMA. AND we are like the CDC, working to promote public health by addressing DV/SA/other social problems not only a case at a time but with our prevention programs. Our work is vital to our communities.

That may not be much, but it’s a start. What do you think? How are you handling similar situations?


Making Meaning Through Movement

Kornfields-Spirit-Rock-Marin-CA-SF-Examiner[1]I just returned from my 4-week silent meditation retreat–a transformational experience.

One of the things I experienced while on retreat was lots of free-time, during which I practiced the tai-ji moves (Forward Stance) that we have been taught in Just Futures over the past two years.

Every day, I’d go through the moves over and over again.  At first, I had a hard time remembering them and it took a lot of concentration and scouring my brain to put the moves together.  But the more I did it, the more I developed a body memory.  The less thinking I had to do, the more I had the direct experience of the moves – and their deepening meaning.

I am sad that I had not learned, before my retreat, the very last move (dragon’s tail – ultimate change).  So I only got through Rain on Beijing.

I was also nervous that I was practicing moves incorrectly, or in the wrong order and that I’d have to “unlearn” them so I could do them right later on.  But honestly, I did not let any of this stop me from practicing. 

One of the Buddhist practices I engaged in, for the first time, on this retreat was chanting.  Every evening, all the students would follow the lead of a teacher who taught us the Metta Sutta (Buddha’s teaching on loving kindness) in Pali – the language the Buddha spoke.  I chanted from a sheet and never was very proficient.  But the thing I loved about the chanting was realizing that there are people chanting this all over the world pretty much continuously – there are no doubt people chanting it right now!  And this has been true for roughly the past 2,000 years.  Now that’s movement building.  

How this relates to the tai ji – I was thinking about so many activists getting involved and learning the practice, that we could imagine being accompanied by people all over the state every time we got up to go through the moves.      

Please pick up your practice and don’t let your doubts or worries stop you.  Make your own meaning of the moves and be prepared for transformation.