by Pam Monsky
Working for a non-profit organization is hard. It’s also amazing. I have spent the past 28 years at a number of wonderful organizations and have learned a lot about myself, the community and the people who live here.
Most of the time, the work is energizing and fulfilling. But sometimes it’s not. Let’s address the frustrations first, because the good times outweigh the bad.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re really making a difference. You have to have faith that the day to day work is really having an impact. You are more likely than not asked to do more with less. Resources and staff are often hard to come by, so be prepared to think creatively. Burnout in the industry is relatively high. Most people who enter the nonprofit workforce do so with great purpose which places a heavy burden on their shoulders. In that same vein, the stakes are higher than that of a corporate job. Losing a few percentage points off a stock price doesn’t compare to losing a young person to drugs or disease. The pressure to raise funds is relentless and stressful. But without fundraising, your work cannot move forward.
My favorite things about the non-profit work are the people I get to work with. Contrary to popular belief, non-profits attract the most dedicated and creative people I have ever encountered. You’re working with people who have chosen to work toward a higher ideal.
You have to rely on all your skills every day. Fewer resources means multi-tasking, doing everything from licking envelopes one minute to schmoozing board members at the country club the next. It’s ever changing and never boring work. You also have to be nimble and able to respond to changes and opportunities in the community marketplace. It’s an incredible feeling to wake up in the morning and know that you are a part of a larger purpose, and I can’t imagine a better way to spend a career.
My passion for non-profit work comes largely from the experiences I had as the Federation Communications Director several years ago. I learned the value of “knee cap to knee cap” fundraising. The experience of sitting face to face with someone and talking about their goals and passions is something I’ve carried with me to this day. And being personally invested in a cause makes the work even more compelling.
My current position is Development and Stewardship Manager of the American Diabetes Association. My husband Henry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 25, just months after we were married. I’m not sure why or how, but I knew the signs of diabetes (probably from TV and radio ads as this was in the early 1980s) and seemingly overnight, he was exhibiting every one of them! We went to the doctor who immediately sent us to the hospital. We couldn’t even go home from the office. It was frightening to be sure. I was still working on my degree, and I remember coming to the hospital after classes. I hadn’t eaten all day and was starving. Henry had a sandwich on his bed tray, so I ate half of that. He had his first insulin reaction that evening because I took part of his food. Oy, the guilt!
That was almost 35 years ago. 35 years of shots, blood testing, schedules, side effects, doctor appointments, med changes, high blood sugar and low blood sugar. Still, thanks to the research being conducted with American Diabetes Association funding, Henry is alive and well. That isn’t to say it’s been easy. It hasn’t. Diabetes affects the entire family emotionally, physically and financially. There have been times when my kids were very young and had to call 911 when they noticed their dad having a severe insulin reaction.
The fact that there is no cure for diabetes 75 years after the founding of the American Diabetes Association is discouraging. But as with other diseases, improvements in the lives of diabetics are considerable. And that gives me hope and keeps me motivated to fulfill our mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
To find out more about the American Diabetes Association, visit www.diabetes.org.