Friday, April 8, 2011

Why You Should Stop Donating -- And Volunteering -- Now

A journalist friend of mine recently posted a great video by Good Intentions that brilliantly highlights why we should all stop donating our used clothes to international charities.

I love this video mainly because it does what I try to do every day: turn complex issues into compelling messages that stick and spread like wildfire.

But I also loved this video because it speaks to me as a writer and journalist. It's becoming increasingly difficult for people who are skilled and talented at their craft to make a living wage off their years of hardwork. Not that anyone goes into writing with the expectation of being a billionaire, but the plethora of "citizen journalists" and Craiglist writers willing to write for $15/hour is forcing those of us with years in the trade to justify rates that would allow us to eat, keep a roof over our heads and pay for vital necessities like healthcare and retirement plans.

It's only with the advent of social entrepreneurship that people have begun to believe that, perhaps, we can have an economy that rewards people for doing good--isn't that the best way to get more people to do good, afterall? But writers and journalists seem to be excluded from this social enterprise movement, even though we provide a vital function, especially my non-fiction breathren.

As a writer, it's important to me and my conscience that I write about things that matter in a way that respects readers. But this year, I've been forced to write for a company that markets products through lifestyle articles (with no mention of their advertorial nature) just to pay the bills. Every day it eats away at me, but every time I pitch nonprofits AND social enterprises, for that matter, I'm asked if I'll work for free like the rest of their volunteers (i.e., slave writing labor).

Wouldn't it be nice if all writers stood in solidarity and simply refused to write for free anymore? Would you join me?