Monday, March 28, 2011

The Non-Profit World

You may not know this about me but I work for a non-profit organization. I've worked for non-profits pretty much all my university years as well as the two years after graduations.

I love working for non-profits. I love the scrappiness of it - the "I'll bring scissors from home from the office" or the "I'll bake some cookies for this event" or even "don't worry about it, I'll help out with that". I love the thank yous, the pats on the back for hard work, and the feeling of self worth when you see the end results.

The current job I hold is nothing like that. I work for a non-profit (provincial) that helps individuals with intellectual disability.  However, because I hold a support staff position, it is made clear to me that my position isn't as important. When I got the job here, I was proud that I was doing a small difference in the world by working for such a good cause. There is no way any staff here makes me feel like what I'm doing makes any difference at all.

As I'm writing this (yes, at work, bad bad me) I am asked to clean up the board room after the board meeting downstairs. Our own board members are not capable of cleaning up their own dishes after they are being fed like kings by one of the most expensive catering company in town.

I don't understand how a feeling of cooperation and helpfulness isn't happening in a non-profit organization such as ours. Especially given the goal of the organization. We strive to help individuals with intellectual disabilities find homes of their own, jobs, and have the choice of education. But somehow, because I'm only a support staff person, and I don't work with individuals personally, I'm treated as though I'm lower. I'm lower because I assist the executive director (mostly make her coffee, get her water from the cooler downstairs because she is too important for tap water), I'm lower because I'm the one who cleans up after meetings, I'm lower because I'm the only one who runs errands in the office, and lastly, I'm lower because I'm the only one who drops off the mail. I am almost never thanked me for doing something. Mostly because people here this is part of my "job description".

What bothers me the most is that there's a hierarchy here. And I am clearly the lowest one on the ladder. And this is an organization helping to better the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities on par with ours. My work life isn't on par with the higher up positions in the association.

The spending of the organization has baffled me in my time here. Feasts are ordered for meetings rather than employees bringing their own lunch from home. Money is spent liberally on office supplies. We get services like carpets in our offices being changed every week, water being delivered to us every week, a Smartboard we never use and employees who flat out refuse to use it even though they have attended training for it, incredibly expensive day planners, and events that are too expensive for the profit. These are all things that if I were to make a sizable donation to the organization, I'd like to know - I'd most likely not make the donation.

Needless to say, I'm looking for another job. I have never worked for a non-profit that thinks of themselves as a government organization. Even government lead departments do not spend like this. My friend works for one and she says they do not spend as we do.

The other day, we had a hard time finding $100 for an individual in our funding. We had a hard time finding money for a self advocate when WE are spending thousands on food every two weeks. I'm ashamed. My time here will hopefully be done soon.

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