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The Cost of Community Organizing


The Minneapolis Mirror does a little investigating and calculating of a northside neighborhood group:

The cost of having 3 staff for the Hawthorne Community Council is $183,852 or $61,284 each.

$61,284 divided by 1715 (actual working hours total) = $35.73/hr

So what did the residents of Hawthorne receive for their $35.73/hr on June 2nd 2010?

Jeff Skrenes, staff member of the Hawthorne Community Council mentioned that he strolled around the neighborhood (2) collecting 25 phone books from properties. Let’s say Mr. Skrenes is very efficient and hunts down 1 phone book every 7 minutes while running up the steps, depositing his treasure in the trunk, buckling up and scouting for the next phone book to be discovered.This would equate to 175 minutes or around 3 hours.Then Mr. Skrenes drove out to the suburbs to return the phone books to the receptionist.We estimate this process would likely take at least 2 hours round trip.

This brings us to our grand total of 12 hours @ 35.73/hr = $428.76 or $17.15 for each phone book collected.

Most neighborhood groups fund their entire budget through the City of Minneapolis. It is deemed essential to civic participation and community engagement. Hawthorne, being a blighted area, may be receiving some funding from other levels of government or from private endowments.

Wherever the money is coming from, it is being wasted.

This is a particularly silly example, but it squares with my decade-plus of volunteering inside the beast. The organization solicits input from the community about needs and priorities. Only a handful show up. And that handful decides how the grant money is spent.

The staff activists and organizers are selected from and by the handful of engaged residents who regularly attend meetings. They all think they’re doing good and decent work.

I disagree.


I will pick up the phone books and get a free workout at the same, win for me! Not enough people show up at your meetings. They will never know that I don't live in the neighborhood. Where do I apply?