Fighting Poverty with Passion
This month we bid a fond farewell to our fall semester intern, Emily, who has been with us since September. She has helped with administrative tasks around the office and most recently accompanied me to the Freret Market for a day of outreach.
Conducting outreach and tabling at events can often seem like more trouble than it’s worth—hauling materials to and from your car, sitting at a table for hours on end while seemingly only talking to a small percentage of everyone who passes by…it’s usually not a an endeavor that yields immediate results. For example, we’ve discovered that despite the fact that the Freret neighborhood is a moderate-income area (and thus a good source of potential homebuyers for our affordable home ownership program), the majority of those who attend the monthly market don’t seem to be from the neighborhood. Most of the people I talked to this weekend indicated that their income was too high to qualify for our program which is limited to moderate-income households. I could go on a myriad of tangents about gentrification in this area, but I’ll save that for another day.
At first glance, it might seem that we did not fulfill our most pressing outreach goal which was identifying potential homebuyers. However, many of the market goers I spoke with expressed admiration for our organization’s mission and still took our flyers. Everyone we spoke with has their own network of friends and colleagues and it just takes one person to mention us to someone who could benefit from our programs to yield results. Furthermore, simply being at the market gives our organization visibility and also facilitates personal networking opportunities —I was stationed next to Stay Local, an organization that promotes local businesses, and I discovered that the woman working their table works out of Propeller which is right behind our office.
In sum, outreach can seem like a lot of work for little direct payoff, but it’s necessary to see the forest and not just the trees (to borrow a tired metaphor). In other words, maintaining a positive attitude requires an appreciation of all the parts of the whole rather than measuring success according to a single, isolated metric. Having said all this, we are currently reworking our outreach strategy and may or may not attend the market in the future as we have to consider the opportunity costs involved. Essentially, if the same amount of effort in a different setting can create more connections, then that’s the more efficient use of our time.