Working with and among nonprofits, we often wear many hats. By day I advise some of the future voices of the nonprofit sector, working with students through the Institute for Nonprofits at NC State University. I am also a student of the sector myself, working to complete my second year of the Masters in Public Administration program and Nonprofit Management focus at NC State. In off-hours I serve as the President and Director of ME³, a nonprofit I co-founded in 2005. Beyond that I try to be a volunteer, a friend, and myself. I feel that my identity includes all these ‘hats’, but that it has also become part of something bigger: a whole community of people who have found themselves in doing what they love, which is loving and acting on that love for their community.
Among other things, I hope this blog can be an exploration of identity: the personal and the community, and how the personal relates to the community. I want to share my experiences and knowledge, but also try to better understand that ‘thing’ that makes being a part of this work so fulfilling for myself and, I imagine, for others.
Whenever I meet a local volunteer, community leader, or nonprofit representative it never ceases to amaze me how often they are likely to know some other volunteer, community leader, or nonprofit representative that I know. Over so many meetings and socials and networking events, and over the past few years it has becoming increasingly clear—yet somehow still astounding—how web-like and interconnected the nonprofit community is. I feel like there should be some kind of special name for it—not a name for the ‘sector’ per se, but for this sense of community, this ‘badge of community’ we wear that feels like its just an inherent part of working and volunteering with nonprofits.
Volunteers, leaders, champions and voices and representatives of nonprofits are each individuals with separate identities yet within the sphere of charity or volunteerism we all find at least one thing that bonds us together, and that one thing is extremely powerful. I feel like being a part of the nonprofit community has given me access to a world of potential and friendships, where even two or three-time acquaintances feel like old friends. It is hard to describe. When I meet some one else who has applied themselves to some cause, there’s something that clicks. We don’t have to offer one another anecdotes of our uphill battles, show our clenched fists at injustices, or prove our dedication to a cause; when I meet others within this community, I know they just “get it.” And amazingly, this feeling seems to transcend age, race, and background. Just a glance. Just a nod, and we know.
In this amazing way, I feel like being a part of the nonprofit and volunteer community affords me a view of what an ideal community could look like. Fittingly, this is the vision we in this very community work towards every day. It’s not hard to stay idealistic being a part of it, and my hope (and in a sense, my mission) is that others will step into this open circle and reap its benefits, too. The best part is that membership is free.
I look forward to furthering this sense of community online with others. Please don’t hesitate to say hello: firstname.lastname@example.org.