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update 4/5/11: entry to this post was updated for present or would be advocacy bloggers who feel awkward for receiving sponsorships, direct or indirect rewards as a result of a good advocacy.

Together with Grace Nicolas, co-speaker on advocacy blogging, we received the most straight forward question courtesy of my presentation [ha ha, nadamay pa si Grace, sorry Grace, coffee tayo minsan] paraphrased as follows “is it ethical to earn from your advocacy”?

I’m not sure what the audience are thinking, I read a few tweets that find nothing wrong if money exchange hands in advocacy, but some may actually be in agreement with the gentlemen who expressed his reservations. Likewise, before the community take a stand on the issue, these should be considered:

  • The intention of the advocacy should be to add value to the community, to some people, it is born out of purpose in life or mission,  i.e. religious in nature. To others, to meet a need, i.e. Reproductive health
  • On personal level,  some do it full time, others don’t.
  • On the corporate level, there are several models to look at:
    • 1st model: a company  channels a portion of it’s earning for an advocacy campaign, this will form part of their CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility projects. Big companies set-up their own foundation, other  companies support NGOs. But the advocacy they chose  is based on the value [in terms of goodwill] that will go back to the brand.
    • 2nd model: Foundations/NGO’s. They rely on the support and donations from groups and individuals. The money is used for operations that includes salary of the staff.
    • 3rd model: companies integrate their advocacy in their products. Like a “green” or environment friendly thing. They offer regular line of products and another set would be environment friendly. They earn from these because the specialized products, sometimes, are pricey.
    • 4th model: the advocacy is a profit centered operations. This is called “social entrepreneurship”. Pricing of services is socialized. Those who can afford are billed higher, others are subsidized. There are companies, for instance, whose advocacy is anti substance abuse. Their services and facilities are geared towards drug testing, rehab, education campaign, etc.

For corporations, advocacy are funded as a result of reallocation of revenues, or direct profit from a product or service. For NGO’s funding comes from fund raising and donations from companies.

Now let’s go to people:

  1. Employees of corporations running their CSR campaign are salaried, and they are paid well to attract the best talent out there.
  2. On employees of NGOs, some are salaried and some are not. [High turn over rate of EEs are noted on NGOs who do not have a steady sponsor].
  3. On individuals supporting or spearheading an advocacy. The part time supporters have their day time job, money is not the issue, but time is. Those into full time advocacy work are either relying on support or donation, indirectly earning from the advocacy,  or struggling to have a decent life.

With these, perhaps we can now make an objective answer to the question. If a person is an advocate, is it unethical to be rewarded or to earn?

In my opinion, the community will forever be divided on this issue, and let us leave it at that. But for the advocates, you have several patterns to follow. But if you are rewarded directly or indirectly, don’t feel bad. I agree that advocates need not appear to be greedy vultures, but neither as paupers [top corporations are hiring the brightest and prettiest for their advocacy and csr teams]. But you need to be prudent and protect yourself from unnecessary harm and stress. You can do this by your

  • Display of intention, dedication and commitment.  i.e. spending personal money and devoting time in countless occasions to spearhead the advocacy.
  • Readiness to issue BIR registered official receipt
  • Transparency

And remember

  • An advocacy will not take off, much more sustain it’s mission, without money.
  • The yardstick of your success  should never be the revenue, but the influence and effect of your advocacy to the community.
  • Anything the advocacy group and the people behind it receives, is a fruit of the goodwill that were sown to the community, and that can be 1] in the form of barter, 2] cash, and these are both for the “operations” and the people behind the advocacy and 3] projects [as people appreciate your work, projects pour in]. As you give, then you shall also receive.

Since I am on the spotlight,  please read the disclosure we made when we launched the concept almost a year ago, it still holds true today. Because we expect growth in what we do, instead of using the original design of the company we conceptualized, we registered a new one so these can accomodate a broader spectrum of consultancy and training services. We issue OR for our services. The commercial side of the operations is consultancy and training on People Management [being an HR Executive at that, this is pretty easy], Social Web Marketing, Social Web Customer Relations Management, Cyber Wellness, Anti-Cyber Bullying, Online Reputation Management, HR 2.0 and alike. The ministry [others call it social advocacy] side is [1]web safety for parents and youth and [2] Spiritual Intelligence @ Work.

Additional disclosure: I am an Asst. Vice President for Human Resource when I decided to venture on my own last year, to pursue my passion. I registered a company and provided services on areas that are close to my heart. And the cool part is I can get involve to as many value adding activities to my hearts’ desire, without worry of my job or my boss. I am not into advocacy campaign because I have nothing else to do.

So what is my take on the issue?

An advocacy is like a baby, in order to raise her we spend so much time and money. We do it because we find pleasure without expecting anything in return. But whenever the baby responds with gestures of appreciation, we smile and cherish it in our heart”

 

What are your thoughts?

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