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“Philanthropy is changing. By design and by demand. Proactively and reactively”

-Brian Crimmins

The non-profit sector is one that has faced a lot of scrutiny and that has often been stereotyped as disorganized and ineffective.  Prior to this summer in Boston, I did not have any experience working in non-profits, and while I didn’t have proof that these preconceptions were true, I was aware of them and they influenced my expectations for the summer.

After working at MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership for seven weeks, I can say that while I am sure there are non-profits that confirm these stereotypes, the successful ones do not.  Philanthropy is being forced to change and the organizations that are refusing to do so are closing their doors, says Brian Crimmins.  With an increased need and desire to help people, what are the transitions that non-profits need to make to remain influential in today’s world?

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why my summer at MENTOR has been so different from the expectations that I had about working at a non-profit.  I know that there cannot be one straightforward answer, but I believe that I have been able to identify a few themes within this organization that allow it to thrive.  MENTOR is a national non-profit that has recognized that philanthropy is changing and through adaptation it has found success and even growth.  There are a few things that stand out to me as driving forces behind the organization’s success.  MENTOR is receptive, collaborative, and innovative.  The organization has a very clear mission but they do not allow that mission to blind them and trick them into believing that there is only one way to fulfill their goals. Within the office different teams work across their fields and share discoveries and setbacks in order to understand how they can better support one another.  They do not isolate different branches of the office but they understand that they must encourage collaboration and intertwine their efforts to expand their reach.  Furthermore, they are not afraid of new ideas and new perspectives and instead they approach them as goals.  I believe that these are three of the many qualities that are supporting MENTOR’s success and growth in the changing non-profit world.

I have also realized that these qualities should not be isolated to the non-profit sector, not even to the business world.  The ability to receive feedback from others, collaborate with one another, and have a creative and innovative approach to work and life can be powerful qualities for any individual to harness within him or herself.  Just as the non-profit sector is changing, so are the expectations and goals that I have for myself.  After speaking with countless alumni and adults about post-grad life I have learned that there is not one format or one structure that leads to a successful life or career but that it is more about paying attention to your surroundings, being attentive, collaborative, and innovative.

The theme of adaptability also came up in a conversation I had last week when I realized that the farther I drift from high school, the more I have been searching for a new way to identify myself.  I spent seven years at an arts school where my identity was almost entirely shaped around my role as a dance major.  When people would ask me who I am the answer was always, “I am a dance major.”  I have not lost this piece of my identity but it has become just that, a piece of my identity.  Today I am still learning to adapt my own identity and goals in a changing world.  Just as MENTOR is being open to the changes that are taking place in the non-profit world, I want to consider being receptive, collaborative, and innovative as I discover more about my goals and identity.