I think many of us had our first experience with nonprofits through volunteering. Whether it was walking dogs at an animal shelter (I’ve done this), serving meals at a soup kitchen (I’ve not yet done this), passing out flyers to help with outreach (I’ve done this too many times), or working a booth at a festival (yup). For many of us, this introduction to the world of volunteering started when we were young, with our parents taking us along or going with a school group. However, as you get older, your schedule starts being filled up with classes, or work, or children (or all of these things), and that time that you had available to spend volunteering slips away.
In the context of my other fellows, volunteer work is what made us first passionate about working with nonprofits. We might be poor college students and unable to donate money, but we are at least able to give our time and talent. There’s nothing like the sense of goodness you feel when you serve someone a warm meal, or mentor a underprivileged child, or help build houses for those in need. However, with this summer fellowship, most of us aren’t really doing that much of that. Now, we have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and into those nonprofit offices. We aren’t serving a meal, we are serving budget reports. We aren’t mentoring children, we are creating programs so other people can mentor children. We aren’t building houses, but making videos about the people who help build houses. There are now one or two degrees of separation between us and the general public. This new role is a challenging, but still rewarding, one to step into.
In the case of my fellowship site, we are a nonprofit who help other nonprofits. There is an extra layer of separation from the direct public interaction I’m used to from my experience volunteering. I’m not working behind the scenes, I’m working behind the scenes of the behind the scenes. It’s a strange concept to get used to and it is a continuing process of reminding yourself of the mission you are working towards.
This post it getting a little long, so I’ll wrap it up with the 3 main points that I wanted to make (and I would’ve been able to flesh out if I had more time and many more pages).
1) Keep volunteering. No matter what age and no matter how busy you are.
2) Appreciate the people who run nonprofits behind the scenes. And if you are one of those people, make time to appreciate yourself.
3) Never lose sight of the end result. If you are one of those people behind the scenes, make time to realize the end product of all your hard work (if you need help, refer to point one).
That’s it folks! Thanks for reading and see you next week!