Practicing Equity: Soulardarity’s Extended Advance Program
Small community organizations often struggle with issues of equity. We tend to put our communities first, putting dollars towards our programs and members, at the expense of pay raises and better benefits. Soulardarity came up with a solution: the Extended Advance program.
Small community organizations often struggle with issues of equity. We tend to put our communities first, putting dollars towards our programs and members, at the expense of pay raises and better benefits. This breeds an environment where staff leadership is undercompensated and feels undervalued, leading to burnout and the loss of great leaders. This environment of resource scarcity is in large part driven by a philanthropic community that doesn’t understand and even actively works against community interests, and there is a lot more foundations and donors can do to improve the situation. In parallel, we can be in an organizational practice of improving equity and access with the resources we have available.
We started talking about this last year in Soulardarity. Our ED had one-on-one conversations with each of our staff team members and we had several group discussion about how to improve administration, working agreements, and communications to make our work more sustainable. The most powerful solution to come out of the process is what we’re sharing today: the Extended Advance program.
Through the EA program, staff members can borrow from future payroll to handle sudden needs. Whether it’s a utility shutoff notice, emergency car repair, or just handling a long-term debt, the EA program allows committed staff to better manage emergencies and other needs without compromising their immediate cash flow. The advance is paid back over up to 12 pay periods. We collaboratively set controls and limits on the program that protect the organization financially and ensure equity in access to the program’s benefits.
Effectively, it’s a small zero-interest loan program for the people who do the critical work of the organization. Since we started it in September 2018, we’ve issued 5 extended advances, 3 of which are fully repaid. It doesn’t cost us anything additional to run the program. Processing a complete advance, from issuance to payback, takes less than an hour of cumulative staff time.
Why you should implement it
- Race, class, and gender equity: One of the reasons of the gap in leadership of women, people of color, and working class people in non-profit work is the consistent state of emergency that is a barrier to meeting job requirements. An EA program can help manage emergencies, and in doing so support leadership from communities on the frontlines of the issues you work on.
- Keeping good people: You just don’t get paid as much in the non-profit sector as you do elsewhere. An EA program creates a real support structure that can keep good people in your organization when you can’t afford the raises you’d like to give.
- Challenging extractive finance systems: Pay day lending, pirate-like mortgage companies, and utility debt collectors are ravaging the people most vulnerable to financial emergencies. Using our resources as non-profits to model a more just system of finance doesn’t just benefit our people - it sets a standard that can push changes to the systems that hold all of us back.
- Collective Responsibility: Non-management staff have the fundamental responsibility for and authority over the EA fund. By structuring this way, staff build greater ownership of finances, contributing to a collective culture of management.
Use our stuff!
We encourage you to copy+paste our program! We’ve seen the impact it can make and want others to experience it. These are public versions of our documents. Go to File-->Make A Copy and customize the program for your organization.
The more just we are in our work, the more justice we can make in the world. We encourage you to learn from, replicate, and improve upon this model. We’d love to hear how your experiments go! Share your experiences implementing this program with Shimekia at firstname.lastname@example.org.