I was trying to think of an example of a typical day working at my non-profit organization, and I realized that I could not … there is no typical day!
I feel like the best way to be efficient and productive is to be as proactive as possible, and yet very often much of my time goes toward putting out fires of unexpected “urgent” issues that come up. This causes a constant struggle between how I feel that I would like to delegate my time, and how I end up delegating my time. But, in the end, everything gets done.
There are the larger projects (event planning, etc.) that come up several times throughout the year and then those responsibilities overshadow the day-to-day work (which still needs to get done). There is the filling in for other co-workers, such as taking donors on a tour of one of our schools, or writing proposals when someone else has too much on their plate. There is the assistance that is needed for our main office in the US. There are the emergency campaigns that come up, where you have to drop everything and suddenly become a graphic designer. There is dealing with our database (and if you work at a non-profit that has an even “decent” database, consider yourself lucky!!) There is the need to assist our members/volunteers, and to do everything with a smile. There are days when I am working on an event to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I still have to be the “mailman” and go to the post office every day because our mail is not delivered directly to our office.
I think non-profit is a difficult field because in many ways, there are no rules. You don’t have the luxury to say, “that’s not my job”. But on the other hand, especially in smaller companies, you get to be involved in many ways and learn a lot. I personally have worked both in the for-profit and the non-profit worlds. I made the conscious choice to move to the non-profit world because (as cliché and naïve as this sounds) I wanted to do something that will make a difference. Sometimes you can get caught up in the miniscule day-to-day activities and lose sight of the larger picture … and it is important not to do that.
You have to remember the larger vision and goal that you are working towards.
I have to wonder, is my non-profit experience typical or unusual? Other fellow non-profit employees, what do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback.