Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Making Do with What You’ve Got

As I’m now wrapping up my second week with MainStreet Hammonton, there’s at least one lesson that is clear to me: in a nonprofit organization, you have to work with what you have. While this may be an obvious statement to many, I’ve never realized how this fact affects so much of a nonprofit’s work. While having little wiggle room usually isn’t ideal, I believe making the most out of one’s resources teaches many valuable skills to use in other contexts. So many struggles of a nonprofit are viewed at face-value, without looking below the surface to find out what employees have learned while stretching their means. I’d like to take the time to go through a few common difficulties found in nonprofit work, and discuss what lessons can be learned from these situations.

  1. Making the most of limited funds
    • Extra money can be hard to come by at nonprofit organizations. Often times, budgets are planned to the dollar, based on funds received from grants, events, and fundraising. And should anything unexpected come up, numbers often times switch and money runs a little thinner. Smart spending and saving habits are an obvious must at nonprofits, but they’re also valued traits in every aspect of life. As companies often look for ways to minimize costs, workers with nonprofit backgrounds definitely know how to stretch their dollar.
  1. Working with ranging personality types
    • So many nonprofits rely on the helping hands of their volunteers, who assist in facilitating projects, events, and organizational work. It takes a kind heart to lend time to volunteering, but that doesn’t mean that every volunteer is easy to work with. Work styles, opinions, and personalities can clash and cause conflict in any situation. However, it is vital for nonprofit workers to maneuver around these obstacles. By working with a wide range of personalities, nonprofit workers are shaping their personal leadership and conflict resolution style. They quickly learn what strategies do and don’t work to get the job done, and this ability is a valuable asset in any organization.
  2. Promoting the organization and its mission
    • There are over one million non-profit organizations in the U.S. alone, many of them tackling the same issues and causes. Many big name organizations are well-known, but it can be difficult for small organizations, like MainStreet Hammonton, to get their name out there. Groups rely heavily on social media presence and local advertising to create and maintain a brand for their mission. Non-profits use unique marketing strategies, such as sponsoring events and making connections with local businesses and government. Word-of-mouth is also one of their most relied on techniques. By working hard to spread the word, non-profit workers are earning skills on maintaining a brand image, making connections, and making the most of their resources.

The three difficulties and coping strategies listed above are just a few of many that I’m beginning to learn during my time with MainStreet. As I begin to work on my own projects within the organization, I’m sure I’ll come across some difficulties of my own. However, I hope to overcome the challenges and look forward to learning some new lessons and traits along the way.