Archive for January, 2008

Is working in the nonprofit sector “selfish”, why leave?

Posted on January 31, 2008. Filed under: Nonprofit |

I have had and read many interesting conversations about why people work in the nonprofit sector lately, and why they like it better than working for a for-profit company. A high value of making positive change is always one of the answers, but are they really doing it because they are being selfish? If they were I don’t see why they would ever leave!

Jeremy Gregg, writer of the blog The Raiser’s Razor, says,

“The opportunity costs [of working for a nonprofit] are minimal in this regard when we look at the enormous gains we have made in other areas: seeing the impact of our work every day, feeling … ownership over our actions, reveling in the glorious triumphs of lives changed through a series of events that we set in motion … we make no sacrifices to be here…Indeed, we might even be seen to be selfish.”

His remarks remind me of an episode of Friends, when Phoebe tries to do a selfless good deed, without being happy about it.

In the end, Phoebe tries to give to PBS without being happy, but because Joey got on TV, she actually is happy. Her selfless good deed turns into something she is very happy about.

When some individuals enter the nonprofit sector the same affect happens. You may be starting to work their just for the money, but fall in love with the job, because you are making a difference in the community. This doesn’t happen often but I am sure it does. The majority of those entering the nonprofit sector are doing it because they love their cause and the opposite happens when they have to leave because they are not making enough or are burnt out by giving too much of themselves. From what I have read and heard, those that leave are always finding their way back.

A colleague of mine from a past job at a nonprofit, left her job their to venture into the for-profit sector. After a little over a year working their she decided, that although she worked closely with nonprofits, it was just not the same. She is now leaving the for-profit sector to work more closely with a cause she loves. I don’t know if I would consider her move selfish, I would consider it fulfilling.

Working in the nonprofit sector really is nothing like being selfish, as Gregg and Phoebe suggest. Many nonprofit professionals put in long hours, with little pay and measurement of their successes, but these same people are fulfilling their joy of working for others or working for their communities.

That is why I work with local nonprofits and community organizations. I have a need to fulfill my passion for working in the community and making a difference. If you ask my fiance he would tell you that he tells me everyday I need to be a little more selfish.

Does your job fulfill a need in your life?

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Supporting a Colleague May be one of the Greatest Types of Mentoring

Posted on January 24, 2008. Filed under: Generation Y, Mentoring |

So, I have to confess, I am not the greatest public speaker. Since I was little standing on the stage at the Miss Teen Grand Rapids Pageant (I won by the way, how I don’t know!) when I could only spit out a few words when I answered my final question, with my knees knocking and heart pounding. I am sure everyone could tell I was about to faint. But I must have said the right words, “I want to be the first women President, so men will finally know women can do it too!” Powerful words for a 13 year old, even though they came out with deep breaths in between. There is no way I could ever be President (Utopian like dreams 🙂 ) if I can’t speak in public!

I could sense my nervousness then and continue to have it. This week I had to get up in front of two different crowds to speak. The first was a group of about 25 people and the second was in front of a group of 150. For the first group I got up there with confidence and broke down half way through. I got through it, but shaking. Believe it or not I did better in the second group of 150. The reason, I leaned on strong peer support from my colleagues.

They all know I am not great in front of people, I clam up, I can’t speak, I cough a lot. It is like my brain is telling my mouth to shut the hell up before I say something stupid. We all have these fears, but now for all my fears I have to look to others for advice with the experiences, older or not.

I don’t have to have a single mentor I always go to, although it is good to have someone to shoot ideas off of and get their opinions, someone you trust. You don’t always have to rely on that person for help.

To prepare for my speech today I asked several of my colleagues for advice. I relied on peer mentorship and it paid off, well at least I was better than yesterday :)!

My challenge to other Gen Yers is to do the same. Look to everyone around you with wisdom or knowledge on a particular topic for advice, and keep your mentor for the big things. This way your mentor won’t get bogged down and others may be more willing to mentor. Your coworkers may get annoyed by you, but if you are shooting ideas off each other and all getting better, more the better!

Here’s to better public speaking & finding the right mentorship from all around you!

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Limiting your Passions – Essential?

Posted on January 21, 2008. Filed under: Nonprofit |

As I take my journey through the nonprofit world I continue to hear: organizations need to focus their service efforts, get too broad and you will lessen your impact. I can’t help but wonder if the same concept should apply to me.

I have so many passions, all of which have something to do with the nonprofit sector, but I am having trouble narrowing them down. Should I even have to narrow them down? If I don’t limit what causes I serve, will my impact on the community be lessened?

A little peak into my head will lead you to this crazy list of things I am interested in. And by interested I mean contribute to and/or research, etc.

  • capacity building and sustainability in the nonprofit sector
  • generational differences and the impact they are having on the sector
  • being a young nonprofit professional – helping other young professionals love the sector as much as I do
  • nonprofit management practices – governance, leadership, etc.
  • community building
  • resolving poverty and hunger – nationally and in Africa
  • expanding my volunteer work overseas and in the U.S.
  • women’s rights – in all areas of life
  • breast cancer research
  • orphans issues
  • entrepreneurship
  • social activism
  • being green
  • politics

I see many similarities throughout my list, but just looking at it stresses me out. I can’t take anything off the list, I have to prioritize. But I still can’t help but think if I continue down the path of working in all these areas I will wear myself out and what I do for each cause will not be good enough.

I have spoken to other Gen Yers who are just out of college that feel the same way. Maybe this is why some people believe we are not making an impact. At the same time I am proud to hear of any young professionals extending themselves beyond their career. Every effort, big or small, is worth is right?

I don’t know if I can answer this question right now. Any suggestions or profound thoughts? I am going to keep pondering…

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