Nonprofit Work/Working For Change

I was following a blog series on Why Nonprofits Rock. When asked why I loved nonprofit work, I replied that I loved making a difference in the lives of those who wanted positive change (or something like that). When I tweeted that statement, I reconfirmed to myself why I felt so passionate about my current role as a volunteer and advocate for nonprofits. I love doing work that takes a stand against oppression, injustice, and hopelessness.

However, I can’t deny that nonprofit work can be challenging and exhausting. I have even admitted that I burnt out of my previous position working in the substance abuse field.  I became frustrated over time because most of my clientele did not want the services my agency provided. They had the option to either participate in our program or risk losing their children. They grudgingly participated, (sometimes).  The highlight my work was the rare occasion when a client became clean (stopped using and abusing substances), stayed clean, (at least the years I was involved) and were reunited with their families. I learned relatively fast, that if I were to provide direct care social services, I wanted to work with people who at least showed a little interest in the services my agency provided. After a break away from nonprofit work, I learned that I was able to work on behalf of people who weren’t particularly thrilled about a social service agency in their life, as long as I focused more on administrative work, addressing the larger picture.

Despite not feeling “at home” in my previous field, I just couldn’t stay away from working for the greater good. I have found that my involvement with nonprofits (whether paid or volunteer) has enabled me to strengthen and bring hope to my community. I have also been exposed to many opportunities to grow as an individual both personally, and professionally. I truly get a special thrill in knowing that my work affects social change.

What Do We Want? Nonprofits! When Do We Want Them? Now!

Do we really need more nonprofits? Simple answer…YES!

 When I read this post by one of my new favorite nonprofit bloggers, I was a little taken back that she even encountered “Do Gooders” who were discouraging fellow idealists. I quickly recovered when I remembered the anxieties experienced by former coworkers who worried if our program was going to be the next budget cut. I’m not so naïve to think that the competition for funding isn’t great. However, as a person who has utilized and worked in social services I cannot sit back and watch the increased need for resources and hope someone else will step up to the plate to get things done. Looking back, being so worried about the next paycheck should have prompted us to take action to help secure funding and cultivate relations with donors and potential donors so that we would be less dependent on state funding.

One of the small lessons I can take from my experiences and share with those of you who are working in direct care for a program; be proactive in informing your Development and Communications department about the good work you and your coworkers are doing to improve the quality of life for your clients being served. One way to keep funding and help get more funding is to highlight real life testimonies and experiences.  Don’t be afraid to talk about how the lack of staff and lack of training on best work practices hinders your program from feeding a family in need or I don’t know, saving a life. Perhaps, as we share the needs of our programs we can encourage others to fulfill those needs because let’s face it; there are way too many problems in this world and not enough solutions addressing the needs of the people. Case in point, I live in a state where the housing department stopped taking applications altogether because the waiting list was too backed up. Why would anyone discourage someone who wants to open another homeless shelter or soup kitchen?

Nonprofits are needed but I wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t say, we also need people who are willing to aid the causes of nonprofits too. In response to Mazarine’s post, I posed a question; How do we, (We being anyone who wants to do their part in fostering social change), find and encourage more philanthropic minded people so that established nonprofits don’t squabble and feel intimated by new change makers onto the scene? I would love to hear your suggestions.