This past year I participated in a Strengths Quest workshop, which assessed my top five strengths. Two of these five were input and learning. This means I love information, understanding, and collecting details. This tendency to be a ‘strong’ learner and information collector also plays into my MANY interests in MANY areas (just look at my undergraduate course of study-health major…. German minor! ). This quality can be a strength, but can also be a detriment. Because I do really enjoy learning and have a tendency to collect my information I am often able to make conceptual connections across diverse subject areas. However, I have also found that my desire to know more and more can sometimes cause me to convolute the big picture which, I think in-part, happened this week.
As I am continuing with my evaluation and research on the VISTA Summer Associates working with Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors/sites, I have compiled quite a bit of information and data. I have a developed a database, kept everything organized and accessible. Tried looking at the data from different perspectives, but I have not yet been able to determine which sponsors I would like to use as case study sites. Nothing seemed to speak to the differences between the sites; no patterns. I was hoping that once I saw the responses to the sponsor survey I sent out, all would become clear, but alas that wasn’t the case. Thankfully, I am being mentored by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and had a meeting with my mentor yesterday. She was able to help me look at the data critically and discern how the knowledge I have can help determine the most important differences between the SFSP sponsors. After observing that the information from the returned survey also has no apparent pattern we started to think more broadly. Referencing a past USDA evaluation study on SFSP sponsors, we concluded that the type of organization (government, school based, faith based, etc.) is vital in determining the activities that the Summer Associates perform. As these are mission driven organizations, all of their programs and activities are derived from such. After my ‘aha’ moment, my mentor explained this further and gave vital direction for the next steps in deciding case study sponsors.
As mentioned, I always strive for more information; more detail. A collection that I can store, sort, reference, and analyze. But I’m finding that it is most important to understand the fundamentals of a situation/organization/issue/person, to therefore understand the nature and the reasoning behind a majority of what that entity does. By first referencing the organizational mission, I will have the foundation that connects all of those other details that I have already collected. This is a valuable lesson and critical thinking skill learned through this experience, which is what this Fellow program is all about!
**As a final note, I want to extend a big ‘thank you’ to Michelle, Mike and Dawn from Cramer & Associates for their information presentation yesterday at our first Columbus Foundation Fellows’ Learning Circle. It was my first in-depth experience learning about non-profit fundraising and it was incredibly insightful and valuable. One key aspect of successful fundraising is researching your potential donor knowing as much as you can about them- something, I think is safe to say, I would have no problem doing :-).
Until next time,