How to get staff to understand a different point of view?Nonprofit experts Gary G. Godsey, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, and Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, have teamed up to create MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the authors' personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.
I am a new executive director at a nonprofit that distributes food and diapers to women and children in need. My predecessor allowed staff to “look the other way” when providing our basic needs services to immigrants. They were not told to check for legal status in our pantry or infant programs.
I’m totally in sync with President Trump when he talks about building a wall to keep alien residents out of our country. I work very hard to gather donations from real Americans and it burns me up to give these goods away to those who have crossed our border illegally. Diapers are expensive and we are depleting our stock when we give these mothers (who don’t even bother to learn English!) assistance.
I am being patriotic — not monstrous or racist — when I draw the line at serving those who shouldn’t be here in the first place. I issued an official mandate that moving forward, anyone providing our pantry items to mothers and children without proof of legal status will be immediately fired. At my notice of the requirement to check legal status, many staff members wrote or spoke to me about the change in policy, calling them exclusionist. Exclusionist? Maybe the next illegal immigrant they assist will turn out to be tomorrow’s terrorist. At the very least, these encroachers are taking handouts from good Americans who follow the laws of this country.
Not all Trump supporters are uneducated, rural riffraff. I am a supporter who also holds an advanced degree in clinical psychology and I deeply care about my community and my country. All I am doing is insisting that the laws against illegal immigrants are enforced.
Are there any nonprofit professionals out there who get my point? I have come to realize I’m not going to get any support in my own organization of bleeding hearts.
Thanks, from A Proud American.
Kathryn says ...
Wow! Gosh, I am speechless. Withholding diapers or food from small children who happen to have been born in another country is harsh punishment indeed.
While I understand your efforts to be a law-abiding citizen, it is each man’s and woman’s duty to act with humanity, social responsibility and compassion. You seem to be lacking in these traits, despite your “advanced” degree. Your letter is yet another reminder that being educated and smart does not always equal kind.
If you lived in Nazi Germany, would you assist in sending Jews to the gas chamber because it was the law of the land? Would you pour gasoline and set fire to black men who were protesting for social justice because the South African government endorsed such practices during apartheid? Do you support the incarceration and capital punishment of innocent black men because the American prison system is full of racial bias?
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but you asked. Go somewhere else for support of your negative and downright crazy exclusionist policies. I hope all your staff quits and you can have the pleasure of personally turning hungry children away. What fun for you!
Gary says ...
All too often we turn the other cheek and pay no attention to the laws of the land. Sneaking into a country doesn’t make you a citizen, any more than breaking into a house makes you a part of the family. Seriously, when are we going to live by the rule of law? Whatever happened to living by the rules, being a stand-up law-abiding citizen and doing what is right within the framework of our government’s rules and regulations?
There is a clear path to legal citizenship. Why not follow that path, and partake of all the benefits that come with being a citizen of our country? We can’t simply pick and choose the laws we want to follow or rules that happen to fit our political beliefs. I am sure some people are afraid to say exactly what you have said, because their constituents and others will blame them for simply wanting to enforce the laws of our land, and resort to calling them names and putting labels on them like “racist”.
This is no different than your board telling you to ignore the IRS rules and simply forget about paying the payroll taxes, because they don’t personally agree with it. We can either live by the laws and rules or we can change them.
Now, your take!
Ruth T-C says ... I’m surprised that the nonprofit hired someone whose attitude seems so callous and contrary to the organization's work. It should be possible to fulfill the mission of the organization and still obey the law.
The humanitarian approach would be not to ask any clients their immigration status and simply serve their needs, as had been done before this new executive director took office. Another would be to provide resources for illegal immigrants to achieve citizenship, including offering English lessons. That might be worth adding to the overall mission and services of the organization.
If the new executive director is so firmly against being humane by adhering so fiercely to the letter of the law, perhaps the mission of the organization should be changed, with new employees who would put the law first and humanity second.
It’s also possible that the board deliberately hired someone who would crack down on serving clients who aren’t citizens. If that’s the mandate of the new executive director, her or she should let the staff know, so they can decide whether to stay with the organization or leave to find a more considerate environment in which to work.