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.

5 Ways to Be Productive While Unemployed

Whether unemployed or underemployed it is not too hard to get discouraged and frustrated from time to time while job hunting. When I went through my own stages of a job search, I learned more and more that traditional job hunting techniques are becoming a thing of the past. It is essential to inherit some new millennial techniques to survive this economy. So I’ve gathered a list of a few ways to stay productive and not go crazy when you’ve become unemployed.

1.)Get reacquainted with yourself-I cannot begin to tell you how many people I’ve come across who define who they are by what they do, (I used to be one of them). I would like to think that we are more than just our occupation. Take some a self-inventory; journal, take some personality assessments, (re)discover what your spiritual gifts and natural talents are, find a life coach or get some counseling if starting over again scares you half to death. By getting to know the real you, a new drive and ambition forms and you become motivated, striving to live and work with purpose. A mentally and spiritually happy you produces a much more productive you.

2.)Go back to school-If you find that you lack some of the skills required by hiring companies maybe it’s time to take some refresher courses at a local community college or online. They even offer free online courses if you look hard enough for them. Perhaps now is the time to finally go for that college degree or advanced degree you kept putting off due to working your full-time job.

3.)Volunteer- There are many ways to volunteer your time and talent including helping out your local community, church, or even virtual volunteer work to help organizations with office tasks or marketing from home. Volunteering is a great way to network and build on skills while working towards the greater good.

4.)Become involved in social media- Like I’ve mentioned, traditional job hunting is becoming a thing of the past. There are so many online communities and resources out there that are created to help people find jobs, mentors, volunteer work, conferences and other network events. I didn’t start getting interviews until I started blogging, using twitter and facebook as methods for job hunting. I’m learning that personal branding with these social media outlets is going to be key for greater career success.

5.)Become your own boss- We’ve all heard stories of great business starting during a bad economy. Well why not start your own business too? If you’ve been working in an industry for many years and built a great reputation for yourself you’re already on your way. If you’re not ready to take such a big risk and make such large investment, contract or freelance work may be the road to travel. As for me, I knew that I had not quite gained enough industry experience to branch off on my own so I decided to try out a work from home business opportunity to teach myself entrepreneurship skills so it won’t be entirely new to me when I pursue other business opportunities.

Feel free to add to this list and tell me what you think.

Angel Food Ministries/Feeding America

In times of high unemployment, house foreclosures, and rising costs of living, the last thing anyone needs is to have to pay more for less. I cannot believe how big brand companies thought we wouldn’t notice the rising costs of food coupled with smaller portions for our hard earned money. While looking for ways to save money on food, I was introduced to an organization that helps feed families for half the price they would pay at regular grocery stores.

 The program is called Angel Food Ministries and they are a non-profit, non-denominational organization providing food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. What is great about Angel Food is there are no income restrictions or an application process in order to save on food purchases. As a bonus, they even accept food stamps from those who receive government assistance.

 There are many ways to get involved with Angel Food including being a customer or a volunteer, (I’ve personally been both). Angel Food partners with churches who become host sites that take food orders and distribute food once a month. As a volunteer for my church, I picked up the monthly orders from the main delivery site and helped distribute those orders to customers back at my church base. As an entry level social services worker I benefited from ordering my $30 box of food products that made for very delicious and nutritious meals.

If you would like to save money on food shopping or are looking to help feed struggling families in America check out the Angel Food Ministries Site and find your local distributing church.

Where Do I Go From Here?

 I was having one of those “blah” moments with my best friend. Once again we were trying to figure out what the heck we wanted for our lives. I no longer worked with a social services agency, and she was feeling burned out after a few years as an RN. Our whole life we wanted to help people and make a difference in our communities, and just like that it seemed we had no more fight in us.  I felt sick about where my life was heading. How dare I have no more fight in me!?! According to my own standards, I had not even put in my dues. I learned relatively quickly that, as much as I wanted to, I could not save the world single-handedly; but that was no excuse not to play my part. After being drilled on making sure the numbers looked right for state funding I had forgotten why I cared anymore. 

    For reasons of our own we both went into pity party mode. You know the: “life sucks then you die” mentality. We both decided we had no talent or special skills. We had college degrees, but still felt it was a waste of time and money because we no longer had a passion for our chosen fields.

    As much as I wanted someone to comfort me, I did not enjoy the company down misery lane. I did not want to sink back into a hole that I had finally decided not to waste anymore time in. You see, I had come to a point where I had everything I thought I wanted for my life: a career I was actually interested in; ownership of my own car and home; I had married young, and the only debt we had were student loans. It was a hard pill to swallow when, in some fashion, I lost it all. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life anymore. I was angry at myself and I was angry at God. I did not understand it then but I was under attack and I was not prepared for battle. It took me some time, some interesting resources and positive people in my life, to acknowledge and accept myself (my true unmasked identity) and discover a new love and understanding of what God meant to me. In this process of self discovery, I got connected with a church and came across some really cool personality tests which helped me point out some of my strengths as well as some things I wanted to improve on. The church encouraged an old yet still relevant idea: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.

    Armed with the knowledge of my passions and the causes I would love to volunteer in, I remembered why I cared. During that “blah” moment, my best friend and I concluded that we had a choice: we could stay in pity party mode, or we could press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (phil3:14). We both knew that in order to get anywhere in life we had to start with putting an end to our negative thinking and remembering our self-worth. While working on replacing those old habits of negative thinking, I knew volunteer work would be a great place to start rebuilding a life I never want to take for granted again.

Here are some volunteer organizations I came across during my research: