I met Francesco Petrone in 2006 during my (fantastic) Erasmus year in Brussels, where he was studying Political Sciences. Today Francesco is a 30-year-old PhD researcher at the University of Barcelona. In his first book*, he describes his experience as PR/Fundraiser for NGOs.
I wrote some posts ago about my last professional experience as project officer, and why I decided to quit. It’s good to know that more and more (young) people decide not to participate of a system that they consider definitely wrong.
Francesco, I would like to ask you what have you done in the last five years, but let’s go to the point of this interview, your book. Who’s a PR/Fundraiser for NGOs?
The PR promotes humanitarian projects through fundraising activities in the streets, squares and shopping centers – said in other words, he’s the guy stopping you while you are running from one side to the other of the city, asking for a donation for some good cause.
The main point of your book is that this job is actually far from being a philanthropic one…
This job hides very unknown aspects. For each new subscriber, the PR earns 45 Euro, and other 45 go to his Manager. A Manager will then easily earn 900 Euro per day if, for instance, he “controls” a team of 20 people and each one makes a new subscription. In my office there were PRs making three or four new subscriptions per day, meaning a monthly income for the manager of 35-40.000 Euro.
The book describes in detail the pyramidal system of this sector. A hierarchy is not per se negative. Why is this one so?
The system is such that the main (and eventually only) PR’s motivation is to make career and become rich. The second step for the PR is to become Owner/Manager. The Owner manages an office with at least 15 PRs, and has his own client – in my case an NGO. The next step is to be promoted vice-president, who is in charge of at least 11 Owners, and then at least 11 offices. From each office he receives a commission of around 6%, equivalent to an average of 5- 6,000 Euro per month. Multiply by eleven, and then reflect about these numbers. This system is wrong because those at the top become rich by motivating the PRs with the promise that one day they will be rich as well by selling poverty. At the end, employees are animated by everything but altruism and solidarity. My boss was always repeating us to take advantage of people’s belief that PRs are volunteers “to make lots of money and become rich, very very rich!”.
Which is the link between this profession and the current situation of the Italian job market?
Enterprises like the international marketing agency which I worked for – referred to as “Serpente” (Snake) in the book – take advantage of youth unemployment. Many young people, when unable to find the desired job, start accepting almost everything with the perspective of changing as soon as a good opportunity comes. How to make possible for them to enter the job market without being exploited because of their precariousness, without being obliged to serve a wild capitalism generating money from poverty?
Fundraising is a main issue for organisations in the nonprofit sector, but you disagree with the current system. What kind of profile should have your ideal PR?
The pyramidal system should be re-thinked. My ideal PR fundraiser is motivated by the aim of helping poor people, while at the same time earning a regular salary – and not someone that at the end of the day just calculates how many children he was able to “sell”.
Next book in mind?
Some ideas but nothing concrete yet…
* The book, entitled “Quando la Onlus diventa un guadagno – Techiche per arricchirsi salvando bambini” is available only in Italian. Click here to order your copy on ibs.it.