My heart says yes, but my mortgage says no: Working for exposure

Handing out resources

I have spent my life sharing – clothes, food, books, ideas, inspiration, shoulders and ears, advice – and have always been glad to do so. It seems to be the appropriate thing to do to help others, right? I mean, some of us were even graded on "plays well with others" which meant we were kind and giving. Even then a Myers-Briggs "I"(ntrovert), I wanted to be sure others had the help they needed. The marks for plays well were always positive (That was probably my MBTI "F"eeler!).

But – and I mean "but" not "yes and" (the improvisation technique to move a conversation forward) – my experience, expertise, ideas, teaching, speaking, writing, facilitating – are how I earn a living and have for more than 40 years. As my expertise has grown, the requests to "just this once" do it (whatever it is) pro bono to "help us out" – because our budget is too small to pay you (or pay you what you're worth) – you'll gain so much exposure – you are so good [the one that often gets me!] at doing this and we only want you and we're so sorry we can't pay you – keep coming.

I've never kept track of how many pro bono things I do. They include "just" looking over a contract and providing input, designing and conducting training for any number of groups, offering resume input and job advice, writing an article, etc.  Generally I don't resent doing this – it seems again, the right thing to do. But ... why aren't I offered what I'm worth? As in what the advice, service, etc., are worth?

On a recent flight, I read this article originally published in the Sunday, 10.27.13 New York Times and had to control my laughter and fist-pump "yes!”

What's the solution to this dilemma of giving so much when others don't? Doing for free what others are paid to do? Seeing recognition go to those with lots of money for giving but not recognition for those who give time, expertise and energy?

No really – what are the answers? And do ethics play a role in this?

*If you were about to ask me to do something pro bono, out of the goodness of my heart, because there was no one else to turn to, still do. Please also think about how you'll cover me from all the "exposure" when I'm living on the streets!

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