Fighting Poverty with Passion
As VISTAs, much of the work we do involves some variation of community engagement. Typical responsibilities are volunteer coordination, raising issue awareness, or building partnerships. While I’ve occasionally taken the reigns on such projects, I generally focus on grant writing and donor / supporter communications. Of the little dabbling I do in engagement, my favorite task is writing the Partner Spotlight, a feature article included in the newsletter each month about a local nonprofit organization. It’s not “community engagement” to the degree the above responsibilities are, but it’s a chance to promote and recognize their work and our partnership.
To write the article, I have to interview. And to interview, I have to request a meeting with the city’s most innovative, compassionate minds. So far, no one has turned me down, and I’ve had the privilege of discussing – at length – the work of nonprofits as told by executive directors, program coordinators, field staff, and even clients.
Because most of our partners are doing work related to juvenile justice or youth development, I’m learning about the issues from a variety of perspectives, depending on the need the particular nonprofit is addressing. I’ve conducted interviews at job training sites, schools, advocacy and counseling offices, and more. And I always leave awed.
I know that professional networking at workshops or events is important for this reason: it’s an opportunity to meet new people and hear about exciting projects, campaigns, etc. But at a happy hour, say, when you’re surrounded by fifty people, how easy is it to pick the brain of someone you’ve just met? It rarely happens.
In a recent development meeting, we discussed trimming the Partner Spotlight because we’re trying to cut the length of our content down. Then I remembered how much I take away from those interviews. Now, thankfully, it’s not going anywhere.