Living (and loving) the nonprofit life
Ebullient: characterized by ebullience; having or showing liveliness and natural enthusiasm.
This word beamed at me from the back of my current hangout, get-shit-done-because-I-still-don't-have-wifi spot downtown, North Perk Coffee. I thought it was a perfect way to describe what I feel like when I talk about nonprofits and the people who work with them--you have to have a natural passion for the mission.
My unique area of study has allowed me to sample several career paths and sectors throughout my college career, and I have worked with many nonprofits. Some are tiny and struggle to receive funding, while others are so enormous, rigid, and influential that they might as well be for-profit corporations (I'm looking at you, Spectrum Health). Manna Food Project, my employer, seems to have the best of both worlds: their small staff is flexible and versatile, but they also are well-known in the area and have been successful with grants and donations.
Coming to work with Manna Food Project has so far been one of the best decisions I've made. I'm encouraged to voice my opinion, learn, and take lead. I get to be creative with my assignments, whether that's a press release, the specifics of a volunteer program, or social media. I feel like I'm needed, appreciated, and actively making a difference.
Every day can be different when you work for a nonprofit, and Manna is no exception. My outfits shift from a blouse with jeans to business attire to my Manna broccoli T-shirt and tennis shoes. During my first week, I spent hours on my desktop, trucked across counties to pick up fresh cabbages and (heavy) coolers full of cucumbers on partner farms, participated in "Circle" before our pantry day, and attended a high-level luncheon for the local community foundation--one that was held at the famous Perry Hotel and required a guest list. One night my next week, I went to a community garden after hours where I took some photos and got the stories of church members and other service workers. I even picked a bucket of green beans while I chatted with the district court judge!
Most importantly, everyone--be it volunteer, staff, visitor, or donor--is doing this because they care. We are not striving for market gains, sales, or company goals. No one is here for huge salaries or specific recognition. One week in and my coworkers have made already invited me to group activities and events outside of work. I felt like part of the family on day one!
I'm well aware that nonprofits aren't for everyone. It can be hectic, to say the least, and frustrating when clients or community members don't understand what you're getting at. It can also feel overwhelming to try and balance so many roles within one position, or to think about how people would be affected if you fail. However, I stand by my love for them because of the sense of purpose I feel--when I wake up in the morning, when I see the clients come into the pantry, when I describe what I do to a friend. These are the organizations that work to better our world from the ground-up.
On that note, I leave you with some questions. Do you work for a nonprofit? What do you enjoy about it, or what don't you enjoy? And if you don't work for a nonprofit, what makes you love your job? I'm interested to hear from you!
Until next time,
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