From flattery, to standing my ground, to anger, to teaching, and winning.
If you know me, you know I have trouble keeping my damn mouth shut. I try to have a filter for professional situations, but I’ve been known to get into trouble for saying what I’m thinking, or calling out BS when I see it. It happens at a family dinner with mixed political views. It happens when a stranger cuts me in line at the grocery store.
This time, it happened when a website published one of my blogs without asking. Or even telling me that I would be shared. Or even using my name as the author of the piece.
Here’s what happened. Spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending.
About a week ago, I was fiddling around on Medium, thinking about my past blogs, and what I would be writing next. Then, I have stumbled upon a piece I wrote a few months ago … on a site I had never heard of. “How did my writing get here?” I thought. I was overwhelmed with emotions — Excited and flattered that my writing was getting more attention and not just from people I know. Confused as to how it got there, and why my name was nowhere to be found on the article. Annoyed that I wasn’t asked if they could share it, and that it took me this long to find out it was there! There was a link to Medium that went to my article, but Medium didn’t write this piece. Medium isn’t a human. I wrote it.
See for yourself:
So I asked some friends for advice: What should I do? Are my feelings valid? Do I have any rights to my creative works once I put them out on the internet? Turns out, I do. And I was reminded that even if there are legal loopholes for companies to share things on the internet without asking or paying, the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors have to be different. They play by different rules, are held to a higher moral standard. One where people’s worth is valued, and they don’t take advantage of every corporate loophole.
And that’s exactly why I do what I do, and write what I write. Because I truly believe that social change and philanthropy can help heal and restore justice and peace.
So I asked. I stood up for myself, and asked them, both on Twitter and via email, their two means of communication offered on their website. Here’s the email I sent, asking for two things: Naming me as the author of the piece, and paying me for my work.
Their response was .. well, less than friendly.
Would you have left it at this? I wasn’t okay with ending it like this.
First, I did some research. Giving Compass is a pretty new company, founded by some tech folks with their own foundation. They just launched the site this summer, and their mission is damn-near aligned with my own: Organizing information to help donors give smarter and more strategic. They want to provide information to help folks make an impact with their giving, and know about trends in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors. They share articles from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, foundation websites, Medium posts, national media outlets, and more. It’s a cool service, but I believed they could be better.
I wanted them to be better. I wanted them to understand that they NEEDED to be better.
And so I responded, in the manner they seemed to understand: via twitter.
24 hours later, they responded via email.
I’m getting paid. And I helped inch a philanthropic organization to be more in tune with the mission of the organizations they are promoting.
What did I learn in this process?
- Ask for what you need and deserve. Was 50 bucks* too much or too little to ask for a short blog post, and the emotional troubles it caused? Probably not, but it’s a start.
- Use your support network! I was so relieved when I shared my frustrations with friends on Facebook and in real life. Their support, encouragement, and kudos gave me the courage to keep pursuing what I deserved. Thank you to the lady bosses in my life!!
- Twitter shaming can work, when used right. I tried my best to keep my words coming from a place of love and teaching, but held my ground on asking for what I knew was right. I don’t want to have burned a bridge with this group, but I want them to be better.
- Emotional labor is real. And exhausting. This is nothing new, but a good reminder to take the time you need, lean on each other, and you’ll get through it.
- Organizing works. And I’m going to keep being an organizer for all of my days, in whatever I do.
I know I have a lot to learn as I write and talk about philanthropy. And Giving Compass certainly knows a lot more about running an aggregate website that shares content from around the world. I could certainly learn a few things from them about social media strategies and SEO (search engine optimization). But hopefully they also learned a thing or two about being a better organization, and supporting others along the way. Here’s hoping they pay other authors for their work too!
*Why $50? In the spirit of open and honest conversations about money, here’s my rationale. I had no freaking idea what to ask for in terms of payment, so I did what anyone would do: I googled it. I found that most paid blogs fall into the $15–100 category, and it varies by length. As a relatively unknown writer with a <500 word piece, I felt $50 was right for me right now. Would you have asked for more or less?