Let’s face it. Working in the non-profit sector can feel like a grind. Compensation is typically less than what can be made in the for-profit sector. Clients can be challenging. Donors are awesome people, but getting them what they want and need can be difficult. Managing the day-to-day affairs of a resource strapped organization can leave you mumbling those words you learned from a bubble bath television commercial in the 1970s and 1980s, “Calgon, take me away!”
When I was a young Boy Scout professional almost 20 years ago, I received some great advice from my boss. He urged me to always show up for non-monetary paydays, which he believed were Eagle Scout ceremonies. He said attending those events reminded him of why he does what he does, and they always wiped those gray skies away.
Truth be told, I thought he was full of it when shared that advice with me. However, I discovered that I was jaded and he was right. It is a lesson I will never forget.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago . . .
I received an invitation to this year’s Elgin Community College commencement ceremony from LaShaunda (Clark) Jordan, who was the 2001 Youth of the Year (YOY) recipient at Boys & Girls Clubs of Elgin, which is where I was the executive director from 2000-06.
Sitting in the ECC field house waiting for things to get started, I found myself taking a walk down memory lane with regards to LaShaunda. Here is some of what was rolling through my head:
I was a relatively new executive director, and LaShaunda was the first kid to receive the YOY honor on my watch. I had also decided to change our annual dinner format from a Steak-n-Burger dinner to a Distinguished Citizens theme, and our Youth of the Year was going to take the stage with other important and influential community leaders. So, I personally rolled up my sleeves and helped front line staff prepare LaShaunda for her big speech and memorable evening.
I remembered pacing the back of the banquet hall as LaShaunda spoke to a room of 300 people. I was really nervous because we had all of the right people in the room, and LaShaunda’s big night was an equally big night for our organization.
And then it happened.
LaShaunda stopped talking. The electricity in the room brought people to their feet. Two or three incredibly influential community leaders and donors were wiping tears from their cheeks.
Our little known organization, which I just spent a difficult year managing, had arrived, and it did so thanks to its 16-year-old YOY recipient.
I thought that day back in 2001 was a huge non-monetary payday for me, but I realized how wrong I was while waiting for the ECC graduation event to get started. As the Class of 2015 filed into the gymnasium, LaShaunda took her seat on the main stage because she was the commencement speaker. Sitting among her proud family members, this is what I learned (much of which I knew but some I did not):
- LaShaunda is an air force veteran
- She met her husband, James, during her time in the air force and they are happily married
- They have three beautiful children
- Thanks to G.I. bill benefits, LaShaunda and James are in school pursuing college degrees and living the American dream.
- LaShaunda is enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the fall where she plans on completing work on a bachelor’s degree
- While at ECC, LaShaunda was a student leader who was involved in the Black Students Association and was nominated as the 2014-15 Woman of the Year on campus
- She just put her cancer in remission
It is the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
Hindsight is 20/20, and the Distinguished Citizens Dinner wasn’t my non-monetary payday. It was the ECC graduation event.
LaShaunda was kind and gave me and the Club a little shout out from the podium. While that was awesome, what I really found motivational was learning that LaShaunda is reaching her full potential as a productive, caring, responsible citizen.
All of those tough days on the front line were worth it. At the end of the graduation ceremony, I actually found myself wondering when/if I might find my way back to the front line some day.
I want to use today’s DonorDreams blog platform to publicly thank LaShaunda for sharing her amazing day with an old friend. It meant more to me than she ever could possibly imagine.
I’m also hoping non-profit professionals who read this blog seek out their non-monetary paydays. They most likely exist all around you and occur more often than you think.
In my opinion, these types of opportunities are what motivates “Nonprofit Nation“.
By the way, if you think these mission-focused events are motivational for people who work for non-profit organizations, please trust me when I say they are equally impactful for donors.
Do you have a non-monetary payday that you’d like to share? Please scroll down and do so in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Wonderful, wonderful blog Erik! My career in Elgin began with my work with the Community Crisis Center. I worked there a little bit over 9 years as an advocate for survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. I eventually moved up to a position that combined the direct service with management. Anyway, part of my role was to accompany clients to court. As a advocate, it was my responsibility to learn about the workings of our civil and criminal justice systems and support our clients throughout these processes. In my career with CCC I worked with hundreds of clients and (to my embarrassment) eventually forgot their names. There were so many people in so much need.
Anyway, several years after I left CCC to pursue other ventures I was shopping at the Larkin Avenue Jewel. There in the produce section, a woman came up to me, hugged me and kissed my cheek and proceeded to tell me of all of her accomplishments since her stay at CCC. She was safe. Her kids were doing well. She was no longer with the abusive husband. She finished school, got a better job and was just thriving! She attributed everything to her stay at CCC. She thanked me for believing in her and in helping her.
To this day, I don’t remember who this woman is. But I do remember that encounter as the reason for doing what I do and why the Crisis Center does what it does. There is something to be said for having a direct positive impact on the lives of people (whether one knows it or not)….Truly a non monetary payday!
Danise . . . that is a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. As a donor who just attended CCC’s annual charity auction (and you were at my table too) and blogged about it a few weeks ago, I can honestly say that I LOVE that organization’s mission. I can only imagine how many mission-focused moments exist all around that staff every day they show up for work. By the way, if you or others missed that blog post about charity auctions, here is that URL again: https://donordreams.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/photo-essay-of-charity-auction-fundraising-best-practices/
Best of luck with finding your next non-monetary payday, Danise! 🙂