Science, Darwin, and Advocacy Ethics

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“Back in the day” there was a piece of advice that admonished us to remember that if you went on a first date, or when you invited the boss to dinner, or while you were at work, or during similar scenarios where you needed to be aware of the sensitivities of the company you kept, you should make sure you avoided conversations about religion and politics.

The reason to avoid those conversations with folks was clear: you always wanted to be sure you didn’t offend someone else at the beginning of a friendship or relationship or ongoing with people you would spend so much time with, day in and day out.

As was true then, and is true today, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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Confessions of a Failure

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Think of the successful business people you know or know of. They probably run different kinds of businesses, even non-profits. Their businesses are different sizes, too – from solopreneurs to multi-national conglomerates. They represent different sectors of business from manufacturing and selling products to offering personal services – and everything in between.

What is the first thing most of them have in common? Most of them, at one time or another, have failed.

Some of their failures were highly visible – and well publicized. Some of their failures are never to be spoken of (meaning we have no idea what they are.) In some cases they lost life savings, or millions of dollars, or years of time.

What is the second thing those who failed have in common?

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“I’ve done advocacy for friends and loved ones all my life. Now I just want to get paid for it!”

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I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I want to join the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates because I’m good at advocacy, I’ve done it for years for friends and family, and now I just want figure out how to get paid for it.”

Honestly?  Sometimes those words make me want to scream, because I know they will never make that leap.

The problem is, no matter how simple the answer, no matter how many opportunities they have – the majority of people who can make that statement will never be paid for independent advocacy work.

Why not?

The answer is actually very simple (it’s only four words!), and is provided below.

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Are You the Chicken? or the Pig?

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If you consider a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what is the difference between the chicken and the pig?

It’s a question that determines commitment. While the chicken can produce many eggs over a lifetime, the pig can produce bacon only once. The chicken may be involved in the breakfast, but the pig is totally committed.

So what does that have to do with independent advocacy?

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Charging on a Sliding Scale Just Creates a Can of Worms

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Most advocates and care managers I know have huge hearts. They want to help everyone who needs help! They truly dislike having to charge money for their services (because many have done this work for free for friends and loved ones for a lifetime). Further, in many cases, they don’t give themselves credit for being as capable as they are.

So they struggle. They ask themselves how on earth they are going to ask for money from these (possibly desperate) people who contact them, especially when:

  • They are new, and haven’t worked in private practice for very long (if at all).
  • They are unsure of their pricing, having taken a wild guess as to what they should charge.
  • They have previously done care management only as a volunteer, never having charged for advocacy services before.
  • They don’t know how long their work will take, so can’t figure out what to charge anyway.
  • They hate asking for money.

All of the above or at least some of the above…. is that you?

So then they they declare – I know! I’ll just charge people on a sliding scale! That way they will only pay me what they can afford, but – they will pay me! And that’s a start.

Whew! What a relief. Right?

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