In response to public outcry, Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit dedicated to empowering women has retracted a LeanIn.org posting made by an organization member for an unpaid internship. A status update from Jessica Bennet, who edited Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In, asked for a highly organized individual with social and editorial experience.
The status update sent people into an uproar. Not only is the purpose of the organization to empower women to progress professional and demand being paid what they are worth, but also Sandberg recently cashed in over 90 million dollars in Facebook shares. While the organization did its best to explain that its volunteers were not replacing paid positions, the viral sharing overwhelmed the situation.
This week Leanin.org’s president Rachel Thomas announced that the group would be designing paid internships in response to the outcry. No news has been released on what the positions would look like or how much interns will make. There are currently six full time staff members at the organization.
Should nonprofits be treated like businesses when it comes to unpaid work? The debate is strong. Nonprofits are under constant pressure to be “efficient” in their internal costs. Top charity rating organizations set the value of a charity by how much of the money goes directly to the cause. At the same time, work should be treated as such. While unemployment and underemployment is a top concern world wide, unpaid internships may be put under greater scrutiny.
Volunteers that respond to job posts do not have the same investments as a paid employee or someone close to the cause with means and free time to devote. There are plenty of young, talented college graduates that would love to work for a nonprofit, but are too dependent on income to take internships. The reaction from LeanIn.org to take paid interns is a step in the right direction. If nonprofits want to be part of the solution, paying people what they are worth is necessary.