Commercializing and Incentivising the Assyrian Society: why Assyrians can’t keep Doing Things for free forever!

By: Ashur Sada

What is common between an organization like the Assyrian Aid Society and the international Red Cross? For the most part, including in their own by-laws, they are both non-profit organizations. They are not created to make any money, but more to help and assist people, supported by members and people’s donations.

Having established that the very fundamental core of their operations is non-profit, why is it that there is such a huge difference between how the presidents of the respective organizations get rewarded and compensated for their work? One is paid a six figure salary while the other works virtually for free. Not only do those working in high executive positions for the Red Cross get paid really well, some have been blasted for high salaries for a non-profit organization. In this article, comparing salaries of non-profit organizations’ CEOs, the presidents of the Red Cross and United Way were singled out in a negative way for their salaries of close to half a million for the year 2004. In that same article, the Salvation Army was highly praised for their efficient use and spending of donations, including the salary of its director which was less than $50,000.

Relatively speaking, and using these examples above, how does that compare to the Assyrian Aid Society? Quoting this section from their by-laws:

Section 4.06. Compensation of Directors. The directors of the corporation shall serve in office without compensation…

It is clear that AAS and other Assyrian organization members and directors do a lot for little or no money. Sure they are non-profit or charitable organizations, and we are not calling for a misuse of donations money, but these people do a lot and deserve something in return. This is part of a broader need to ‘commercialize the Assyrian society’

What does it mean to commercialize our society? It is simply to give more incentives for people to do things they already do. A lot of what we do should be commercialized. Commercialization will give more incentive for people to do work, by paying them and compensating them for their time. Yes, even if it is to help other people. Some may argue that there is no need to pay anyone to help others, and that is generally true. But in this day in age, people don’t have a lot of time to commit their time and resources to do something for free. They can do it for some time, but burnout and turnover is surely to kick in after.

Doing away with ‘favors’

Ever asked yourself why a lot of Assyrian organizations and even media outlets don’t last long? simply because there is no funding or monetary compensation, and people get discouraged or just can’t afford their time and resources in the long run.

It is interesting to note that those Assyrian entities that have commercialized their operations, have stayed in business. Some have even thrived. Good example is the Assyrian National Convention. Can you imagine if the convention was done for free, and all those involved worked for free? I don’t think it would have lasted for this many decades now.

Incentives in the Public and Politics

Commercialization should also exist in our public sectors such as politics and lobbying. In fact some Assyrian organizations have recently started to pay their lobbyists and rightly so, after all, who has the time to take on such a demanding and exhausting task with no compensation? Commercializing our politics ( or at least offering financial incentives ) will also discourage a public official or worker from corruption and under-the-table deals.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Business and Entrepreneurship should play a big role in our Community, which is what commercialization is all about. This is not at the expense of community spirit and volunteering but more of a compliment to it. My deceased father, who was an engineer back in Iraq, designed and built the entire beautiful St.George Assyrian church in Baghdad for free! Ignoring the fact that this is a church where price and effort shouldn’t matter, where else could you get such a sweet construction deal? Certainly not in North America or Europe!

Many years ago, when I was still in highschool, I decided to make some money from my website (to pay for its ever rising costs) by offering Assyrian businesses the chance to advertise here (AssyrianVoice.net) for a very low and modest price. Armed with a basic and honest sales pitch, I called my first client (whose name and location shall remain annynous.) I introduced myself and told him about the website and the offer. Without any business exchange and in a rather rude tone, he showed no interest at all. In fact he argued: “you guys should be helping us, Assyrian businesses, by advertising for us for free and not charge us.”
I thanked him and ended the call shortly after.

So this Assyrian business owner thinks those working for free should promote for those who are already making money, and do it for free. Funny. I thought it worked the other way around? Or at least in a reciprocal way?

That is the problem with our Assyrian society. What is not commercialized , should be, and sometimes even vise versa. Innovation and enterprrenership can only thrive by public support and funding. Assyrians have largely avoided this so far but it is time to change it. Just look at figures like Vincent Oshana, Rosie Younan, Walter Aziz etc. They all serve their nation and people, yet they make a profit from what they do. Is there something wrong with that, assuming they are not betraying or putting money before their nation and people? Absolutely not, otherwise how will they find the motivation and resources to move ahead in their careers? But according to some misguided Assyrians, these and others should never be paid a cent, no matter what they produce or give to their audience and fans. Even communism was a little more rewarding than how some Assyrians would like to run our society.

Let us start giving cedit where it due, reward those who put away from their time and effort to help us, and give more incentives for people to innovate and take this nation to the next level.

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