Despite all the dreaming I did growing up about all the things I might do—become a lawyer, write a book, own a book shop—working for a non-profit never really crossed my mind. I always knew what the phrase meant, but I never really understood the connotations behind it. I have friends working for both non-profit and regular firms, and when the ones working somewhere “for profit” talk about it, they usually respond, “yeah… I’m one of the jerks.” But I don’t think that’s it at all! Having worked in both environments, I’m coming to understand that really the two just come with very different concerns.
At PHC, fundraising is at the forefront of the collective thought process; quite simply, it’s where everything here starts. Naturally, as a non-profit, we don’t have as much money to work with as other organizations might. This creates a rather unique tension between spending what is necessary to create a professional and fulfilling program while also accounting for every dollar in a responsible manner. There’s never enough time, and there’s never enough money.
Another lesson I’m learning in the non-profit world is that you have to be more polite. I like to think that, as a nice mid-western girl, I am well-mannered and respectful in my interactions with people. At the same time however, I think it can become necessary to raise certain concerns in a professional manner. There doesn’t seem to be as much room for this in non-profit, and I am trying to understand why. If certain board members do not do what we ask of them, we simply do it ourselves and don’t say anything. Or: last week, I attended a taping for PHC’s television program Humanities on the Road, and there was no air conditioning…this may not sound like much of a problem, but it was a very large and stuffy building (and very well-funded, I might add). It was almost 90 degrees outside, and even hotter inside, so naturally we had to constantly pause taping to wipe sweat off of our main speaker. If there was ever a time I desired a few personal minions to wave palm fronds at me while I lounged, it was in that moment. Though people at PHC were annoyed that nobody from the building staff alerted them that there would be no AC (especially when there would be several bright spotlights for the speakers, and cameras everywhere), nobody said much other than they were glad it was over. Maybe this is because it isn’t worth the effort? That there are so many better things we could spend our time on, given that our efforts are limited and the work is limitless? I’m not quite sure, but I suppose I shall figure it out eventually. Maybe this isn’t special to the non-profit world, but rather to the working world in general. I guess these are my Haverfordian confrontation values at work!
I’m eager to better understand this rather fragile balance that seems to characterize the non-profit world. In the meantime, I promise that I will never be upset with my mom again for having the AC on when it’s hot out.