Sunday, April 29, 2012

(Good) Professional Change Is Here, For Me; But This Blog Is Keeping On...

Over ten years (just before 9/11 occurred) I began a new career in the nonprofit sector.  It was one of the most personally gratifying and wholly new things I have ever done.  I knew nothing about the nonprofit sector, let alone how one worked, or how fundraising is done.  I thought, though, from experience I had in graduate school that some of the most powerful voices in America tend to be local.  They tend to be neighbors or neighborhoods, in rural places or urban ones, and they tend to be powerful because they become active about something or get engaged in something that concerns all of them.  By nature of them being neighbors, this is a very powerful group.  They aren't necessarily friends, but they may know of each other, or their children may know neighbors' children.  They probably do. But that isn't even the key.  The key, in my opinion, is often local communities include citizens who share values in common.

Those values are probably not political, not necessarily religious or spiritual, and are most likely not economic.  They may though, for instance, because they grew up with it themselves, value an old homestead down the road in a state park, that is weathering badly and needing repairs down the road.  Maybe the road the park is on is named for the family who settled that old homestead.  Maybe teenagers of all decades have partied in it.  Maybe the park ranger has to paint it, regularly, in order to cover graffiti.  So, it's not all roses and sunny days.  But maybe when the state's parks office announces that it is weighing taring it down because it costs too much to keep up and protect; maybe all of those local community's members, who haven't all met before, hear about this pending potential loss - maybe enough of them speak up to share that they are saddened by the idea of losing the historic property and slowly, a volunteer group made of community members comes together to ask the parks office what, instead of demolition, their volunteer group could do to help the state manage and protect the homestead?  Maybe local people who value the old homestead ask what can be done instead of demolition.  In part, this kind of community involvement is what makes living somewhere and getting involved great; the power of local community uniting.

The scenario is hypothetical.  It never really happened.  But, in graduate school, I worked on a homestead that I began to see was much more to that local region's community member's than just some old log home and hand-hewn barn.  It got me thinking, as I decided to switch careers to the nonprofit world, that local movements are potentially the most powerful movements in modern American towns and cities (in their ability to bring people together and too, in their ability to effect change - whatever that change may be).  As it is focused on community and results for that community (instead of a bottom line), I began to look at the nonprofit sector as the next step for me, career wise, as something I'd feel I was doing good through, and I was not wrong.

I was challenged to learn professional nonprofit best practices quickly, not to mention having to learn an entirely new business mode and skill set on the fly.  But, I did , and I relished it.  I got a lot of it the first time around.  It made sense to me how professional nonprofit best practices are such by virtue of them having been used over and over by other organizations, in all kinds of different places, to find (too, like other organizations before them) that X best practice works or Y best practice works because it is the most efficient, effective, ethical, and result producing way to do those nonprofit operations tasks.

This kind of information, insight, explanation, and reasoning is what I work to provide, here (in even this small measure - through a blog, for goodness sakes).  Two weeks ago, I received a comment on one of my 'what are matching grants' blog posts from a woman working for a nonprofit that raised a grant, she said, based on the information I provided in that blog post.  I am blessed to have received that kind of feedback, before, but the impact never lessens, from one reader sharing their organization's good news to the next. 

The reason that I write this blog each week is because I know that nonprofit organizations do not have resources that they can easily dispose of.  A lot of  consideration must go into 'welll...if we spend $2,000 here on consulting, we don't have gasoline then for this program's shuttle van...'.  I have the knowledge, I decided in 2004, and I love to write.  I thought, 'I might try one of these blog things (they were new then - imagine that) and share basics on any range of any topic from 'how to', to 'real world examples', and more to help nonprofit organizations needing expertise but not having the cash, perhaps, to hire new staff or a consultant'.

I love blogging on this topic because some of you have been successful because the information you needed was here and you used it.

I have, since January 2010, been working on a new career.  I have not stopped blogging, since, and do not intend to.  In fact, if you have read it before and read the header to this blog, above, now you may notice that it's a bit different from what it has said for about seven years.  I am no longer consulting in the nonprofit sector.  It was a difficult decision for me back in late 2009.  I adored my then nonprofit client.  But, sometimes it's good to involve change in one's career, and I was fortunately able to do so (despite the economy), and so I have.

I am not going to stop blogging, here, in the foreseeable future.  I am absolutely still enjoying it too much.  If and when I see that I can't help any longer - perhaps then I will.  I thought, though, that I would check in and let you know, in case you noticed it, what the change was about and what the status of this blog is.

Truly, thank you for reading this blog, but too, I thank you for your effort for your community - whatever that effort is.

Thank you.

See you here next week.


Anonymous said...

Great post - thanks for your candor here! Glad you will continue to blog. Can you share more about your new career direction? Congratulations on your success!

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Thank you so much. I am writing a non-fiction history about a woman who settled the homestead I riffed about, above. I adore this new work as it is allowing me to indulge in another passion of mine - history.

Thank you, again.