2022 Week 5: Non-profit Management

Photo of Genesis Aire, smilingGenesis Aire | Public Justice Center

This week at the PJC really flew by for me. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, last week I was assigned three different projects by three different people. Two of them work primarily with the Housing project and the other was from Workplace Justice. The Workplace Justice assignment was the most legal project I’ve had so far. Without going into too much detail, the project took most of my time during the week as I wanted to be thorough and make sure I understood the facts of the case. Fortunately, I got a break in the middle of the week with the annual staff picnic at Patapsco Valley State Park.

The picnic is a special time at PJC where all staff come together, some traveling as far as Chicago, to relax and share a meal together. It was nice to finally see everyone physically together in the same place. I’ve only met my supervisors and a few other staff members that helped me set up my laptop on the first day in person. I also noticed that for a few people this picnic was also their first time meeting some people in person. We sat around on benches by the catered buffet and just learned about each other. It was so interesting to see the broad range of backgrounds, ages, and states of origin, of folks that make up the PJC. There was also a raffle in which two winners got a gift card to Guilford Hall Brewery. Afterward followed an award ceremony for employee appreciation by department. The coordinators of the event really prioritized unity and appreciation amongst the staff. It was clear to me that this event holds a special place for many people in the PJC. It’s a rare time when everyone gets together, brings their family and friends, and enjoys each other’s company without thinking about work.

Photo of Rebecca Baxter, smilingRebecca Baxter | Corner Team, Inc.

During the second week of camp, a lot of my focus has been on building relationships. Now that the kids have been here for two weeks, I feel like I have been able to get to know a lot of them a lot better, like learning what stuff they are interested in. I especially loved getting to hear what the kids want to do when they are older, like make comic books, be a nurse, or start their own businesses. There were a few things this week during camp that stuck out to me that I wanted to share here. The first was during our first literacy lessons, where the kids started reading D. Watkins Black Boy Smile, one of the students was really excited that the characters in the book were talking the way that he talked with his friends. It was a really cool experience to get to see someone so excited about a book that they felt represented them. Another thing that really stuck with me was after I did a lesson on how physics and boxing connect, one of the boxing coaches came up to me and told me that he really enjoyed the lesson and that he wanted to do some more STEM learning on his own to help him improve as a coach. The lesson wasn’t even intended for the coaches, but it was really great to hear that it had inspired him to do some more learning.

This summer so far has really helped me grow in my confidence and speaking skills – I think being in a really supportive and uplifting environment where I feel like I can safely take risks has been really helpful, so I’m really grateful to my placement for providing that. Hopefully I can take some of this confidence into the school year as well. I also feel that I am getting a lot of experience with being flexible and adaptable, which should be useful in any other job I end up having no matter what field it is in.

Photo of Ayla Frost, smilingAyla Frost | Station North Tool Library

One of the most important things I have been learning this summer is what I enjoy doing in a professional setting. I have spent a lot of time in the past two weeks sending emails to coordinate the big event, writing grants, and describing the event for the website, Instagram, etc. I think these are extremely useful skills, (my supervisor has said my emails are already better!) and grant writing is undoubtedly an important skill in the nonprofit space. I am really grateful to be learning these skills, but I have found that they are very draining for me. I usually leave the office in a better mood if I spend part of the day doing something with my hands. For example, I really love using the woodshop to prep materials, and I want to make an effort to ask to do this type of activity more. I also have been enjoying my shifts working “the library,” which is when the public is actually coming in and renting tools. I always enjoy talking to people about being handy and am feeling so inspired by all the people I’ve been meeting and their cool projects.
My manager told me about this concept called energy mapping, which is when you make a list of all the things you do and take note of what brings you energy versus what drains you. I am finding that I really like using the wood shop, talking to members, and doing creative tasks, (and mapmaking – most of the time), but I don’t really love emailing and grant writing. I guess these insights into what gives me energy are a little alarming, as I had been hoping/planning to enter the nonprofit space professionally, where I know I would likely be doing a lot of emailing and grant writing. Regardless, it is good to have this kind of insight as enter the professional world! I may not always be so lucky to have the opportunity to do the fun things I’ve been doing at work, so this also serves as a reminder for me to be grateful.

Photo of Neal Lim, smilingNeal Lim | Baltimore Urban Baseball Association

Throughout the summer, my boss has given me tasks which required me to do a lot of on-the-spot learning, and this week was no exception. Usually, these tasks involve me learning how to navigate a software that I never used before and implement it in our nonprofit’s activities and mission.
Here are a few examples from this week:
In each of our batting cages, we use sensors and an accompanying MLB-partnered software called HitTrax to simulate what every hit done by a batter would look like in a real game. In addition to simulation, the HitTrax software tracks data regarding each player’s hitting. While I was comfortable with operating HitTrax from a user perspective, this week I learned how to navigate the data analytics side and perform audits on players’ maximum exit velocity and maximum distance compared to the average values of those statistics.
Another task I was given was to see if I could implement a donation portal on a storefront site connected to BUBA. The storefront software I learned was called Get Beyond, but after spending hours configuring all the sellable items on the storefront site, I learned that there was no way to implement the donation portal on the same site (they would still be two different sites).
Despite this disappointment, I was able to report to my boss that our current storefront site, Shopify, was much more convenient and aesthetically pleasing to online shoppers than Get Beyond. Because our Shopify hasn’t been updated in months, I learned how to update inventory and the overall look of the site on the management side.
These learning experiences and occasional setbacks have been meaningful aspects of my time at BUBA. They have taught me to be comfortable with discomfort and embrace every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Photo of Amira Rady, smilingAmira Rady | Fusion Partnerships

This week, Fusion held a Staff Retreat to bond and open genuine and open conversation around our mission, values, challenges, and goals as a staff. Staff decided to open the retreat with a conversation about mindfulness; the topic was money and empathy. The question we asked to the group was, “Was there ever a time in your life you were worried about money?” We usually open meetings with gathering questions like this one, but they often tend to be a bit more lighthearted. This question gave us the opportunity to really be vulnerable with each other. Every staff member, including myself, was able to share out a difficult moment in their life in which they were worried about not having enough money. Just in the answers from the group and the affirmation each person received for sharing, the compassion and empathy of our team shone through. For me, a big part of it was listening; in fact, I was the last one to share my answer. This was not because I feel my experience did not carry enough value in comparison to the others, but because I feel it was my responsibility as an intern and Baltimore transplant in that moment to learn about the compassionate and talented individuals I am working with and acknowledge my privilege as well as the challenges I face in that space with them. One team member in particular said something so striking–they shared with the group that their financial hardships taught them about “the fragility of security.” As an organization focused on fiscal sponsorship, Fusion often interacts with funders to secure grants and funds for partners in Baltimore; funding can sometimes be fickle or difficult to secure, so this idea was one that was professionally and personally relevant to the group. With being a fiscal sponsor, it is important to acknowledge the power that money carries in our capitalistic society and to think of ways to more equitably disperse and shift that power. Something I admire so much about Fusion and the Fusion Staff is that they put people first; they do their all to ensure that they are connecting and building relationships with community partners and using each partner’s assets to help fund the incredible work they do. I see now more than ever the valued role that Fusion plays within Baltimore, and I am honored to be a part of the liberation work they do every day.

Photo of Jane Slaughter, smilingJane Slaughter | Impact Hub

This week at Impact Hub Baltimore was a much slower week for me than weeks prior. I spent most of it polishing up my article about the Mini-Summit Event, as well as helping the team begin the interview process for the Impact Report. This endeavor has proven a lot larger in scope of interviewees than what I previously imagined, but I think overall the large number of interviewees represents a wealth of knowledge that I will be able to tap into. It has also just reinstated for me the inherent value of learning from so many different perspectives, and I am so appreciative of the IHB team for making this possible for me.

This week also further made evident for me the large benefit from having a team that cares, respects, and supports one another. On Wednesday, we had a going-away lunch for Impact Hub Baltimore’s Managing Director, who is moving on to a different position. We spent the afternoon at Fells Point at Kippo Ramen and later went to Pitango Gelato, and everyone on the team gave a small going away speech. What became increasingly evident for me throughout this lunch was how much the Impact Hub team respected one another outside of just a work relationship, and how these bonds outside of the workplace have created such a wonderful dynamic within the space. The speeches given were funny, kind, and included many anecdotes but the thing it really cemented for me was just the overwhelming joy that radiates from this team. This afternoon was also great because I felt like I got to know a lot of the Impact Hub team members outside of the workplace, and really helped me fight some of the midsummer burn out that had been making me a bit exhausted throughout the normal work day.