Samantha F


The past few weeks at Domestic Violence Services have been spent organizing some projects that I have been working on throughout the semester. The biggest project and the one that consumed most of my time is a renovation project of two bedrooms and a bathroom. As organizer of this project, I had to recruit over 50 volunteers to help with planning, purchasing, organizing, transportation, and then the final execution of the actual makeover. Over a Friday and Saturday, with the help of my team, I was able to completely paint over two rooms and a bathroom, clean all the rooms, make new blankets, and get all new bedding for both rooms, in addition to new shower curtains and bath mats. In addition to this, I have made the first copy of my pamphlet on elder abuse in publication, although only through the computer, not a publication company. After further revisions, I will be able to print a copy off and send it to a publication company for mass production and distribution.

Throughout the “makeover” process, I became very aware of how much time and effort it takes to get a project like this started and running. It took so much time to organize the funding, the purchasing, the painting, the timing, everything! I realized also how difficult it is to coordinate times of volunteers. It is hard to get everyone on the same page and being able to participate in the same project when everyone has such different schedules. It is important to remember, though, that because the people were donating their time and effort to me and the cause, that it is important that I work with them and around their schedule and always be thankful for every minute I get. Throughout this work, I have become very aware of how people, in a time of need and/or donation, will really pull through. If you are going to try to get people to donate time or money, badgering them isn’t going to work. You have to make them feel like they really want to support the cause, make them feel like it was their idea in the first place to be generous. Through that technique, I was able to get all of the paint supplies donating and all of the time slots for working filled. All in all, it was a very successful experience and project.

Throughout the last few classes and through a few readings, pros and cons concerning the volunteer process have been addressed. When Ceceile Strand, volunteer coordinator for DVS/CP, came to our nonprofit class, she discussed the many issues that go into a volunteer program at a nonprofit organization. First and foremost, it is important to take the needs of the organization into consideration. She was saying that for the hotline work, she makes sure that all of her volunteers are only doing the hours that are conceivable for them. When I was organizing my project, I asked all of the volunteers ahead of time what weekend would work for them and then what times/days would they most likely would be able to work. My project was small-scale in the sense that it only was one weekend, not ongoing like the hotline, and therefore took less time and consideration on my part, but many of the main volunteering themes still applied. During Strand’s presentation, it was also made clear how important it is for the volunteers in all organizations to feel like their work is making a difference. With the hotline, it is apparent that the volunteers do not need encouragement constantly because of the feeling of making a difference that they feel on their own. In some organizations, though, it is important to recognize the work of your volunteers so that they are aware of how important and appreciated they are within an organization. From the readings, it is clear that sometimes volunteer hours aren’t always free. It costs money to train them, to have the supplies that they need to get their job done, to have the staff back up to support and organize their work (such as Ceceile), but that their work is invaluable.

Throughout the past weeks at the Domestic Violence Shelter, I have had a wide array of tasks that I have been responsible for. Most of my work lately has been very independent as I have been trying to organize the publication of my pamphlet on elder abuse as well as a presentation. Some of my work has been at Dickinson College because of the better technology for publication available at our computer labs. I have also spent some of my time trying to contact the Salvation Army’s Senior Center in order to set up a time to do my first presentation on elder abuse for the community. In addition to those projects, I have been working on getting a speaker to come to campus to talk about dating violence. On top of that, I am organizing for a group of students to come into the shelter for the entirety of next weekend to redo two bedrooms and a bathroom. This project consists of me evaluating the rooms in the shelter to see what supplies are needed, fundraising to buy the supplies, purchasing the supplies, and organizing the man power for the event. These four projects have been what my time at DVS has been consumed by.

I feel that my time is spread too thinly through the many projects that I am working on with the shelter. As part of my internship credit through Dickinson, I am expected to write a thesis based theoretical research paper that coincides with my work. This paper is taking much more time than I would like; I wish I could dedicate more time to my direct service work. In addition to that, I am focusing on the pamphlet, the presentation, the “makeover” and the speaker. Each of these tasks on their own is a great deal of work, but when all four are put together, it is daunting! One of the most frustrating aspects of this job is that the work that I am doing should really be a full time position! There is one worker at the Shelter whose sole job is to work with children on advocacy and counseling. Since DVS serves elderly, and since elderly victims of domestic violence have unique needs like children do, they should have their own position. Also, since this is an aspect of domestic violence that is new, under researched, and usually ignored, it needs some of the most attention now in order for the victims to get the adequate attention and resources that they require and deserve. I also feel that the work that I am doing on the pamphlet and presentation are going to be ignored once I leave the program. When I started my internship, there was a box with some research and files in it that have been collected over the past four years. Although this box was a great resource, no one was using it and few people in the office new of its existence. I hope my work here is not put in a box and quickly forgotten; with a history like that, few people would want to contribute their time.

In class over the past week we have been discussing the difficult issue of evaluating success of a nonprofit organization. In some organizations, success is easier to measure than others. For DVS, it is difficult to measure their success. It can not be measured by how many cases of domestic violence are reported per year because reported cases of abuse is severely less than actually cases of abuse. It would be very hard to measure how much their education and advocacy programs are working within the schools and the community. It might be better to judge this based on a 100 year model. For instance, if the rates of domestic violence in a community reduced a significant amount with the implementation and execution of education and advocacy regarding domestic violence, this would be a good measure of success. Unfortunately, DVS has only been around for a few decades and so these serious rates of success are unobtainable. Even if it were possible to get these results, public opinion and acceptance of a certain issue will have changed so much that that could be a more influential factor in the reduction of domestic violence. The program that I am working on, concerning elder abuse, is one that is very needed today. Because this phenomenon, though not new just newly addressed, is prevalent in today’s world, it is important to have as many resources as possible available. Unfortunately, when outside evaluators are looking at our organization, my program will be at the bottom of the priority list and might lose all of its funding. I realize that the program now has no money, as I am an unpaid intern, but that does not mean that eventually it won’t be funded. The volunteer coordinator position that my supervisor has now used to be an unpaid volunteer position. When the organization expanded with the 24 hour hotline, it was clear that a full time staff member would be needed just to manage all aspects of the volunteer world. In conclusion, it seems that the business aspect of management can sometimes take away from the qualitative aspect of an organization. It is important to keep an open mind and a wide lens when allocating funds for an organization. Although it may save an organization money to get rid of a program, it might not be wise for the safety of the community to do so.

The past few weeks at DVS have been very busy. Ceceile Strand, the volunteer coordinator for DVS and my supervisor has been working very closely with me and letting me attend several meetings in the area. Over Spring Break, I met with a group that is working on health issues in Carlisle. Their main concern at this point is CHIP, a health insurance plan for uninsured school children in the area. They are trying to get pamphlets out to all students at the beginning of the school year. Each student on the first day of classes receives a packet of information, and they would like the CHIP application to be part of that. The group dynamics for the meeting were very pleasant. All of the people on the team had worked with each other before this and there is a lot of respect between the members. Although there is a leader of the group, he delegates tasks respectfully and has high enough expectations of the group that it appears that they are going to be making much progress and actual measurable change. Another meeting that I attended was put on by the Housing Authority, the purpose being to find a solution to the homelessness issue in the Carlisle area. The group consists of members of DVS, Safe Harbor, the Housing Authority, and a few other people. This meeting was led by a man from the Housing Authority, but run very differently from the other meeting. He led the meeting in a more authoritarian system, not treating the members of the group as peers. The topic of this meeting was to picture what an ideal system that worked against homelessness would look like. Many members thought that there should be much more communication between organizations and a higher level of collaboration. I was also able to spend the time that I was in the office working on the pamphlet on Elder Abuse. I have gone through many drafts and each time I do a new one, there are more things to consider and more research and investigation to be done.

Through these two meetings I have been able to have a slight glimpse as to what my future in the real world is going to look like. The past few weeks in my life aside from DVS, I have been focusing on my job search post-graduation. The stress is there to figure out what kind of field I want to go into, what kind of work I want to be doing, the type of people I would like to associate myself with in the “office”, and even the way I would like to act when in a group setting like that. I feel that the behavior of the man from the Housing Authority would have thwarted certain growth of the group as there ceased to exist much trust and respect among members. In the other meeting, the one about health insurance for children, the members had clear, mutual relations that made the meeting run smoothly and more enjoyably. I realize that in the world of a nonprofit, the connections that are made between the groups are important, and I feel that the groups within the Housing Authority meeting were not taking advantage of the opportunities. Personally, I felt that these experiences were a bit discouraging. On the one hand, the group with the good connections and progress took full advantage of their opportunity. Unfortunately, the other group, that could have done so much more, did not in any way take advantage of the possibilities. I have a feeling that when I enter into the world of the nonprofit as a full-time worker, I am going to be frequently facing these problems and get more jaded with regards to the system. What I mean by this is that when I am in the field and come across situations of poor communications and missed opportunities, I am going to feel let down and that the work I am doing is going to be retracted by the negative strides made by members of my field. I hope that when I am out in the work force I am in a team of individuals that value group work and collaboration between parties.

During class and through the readings we have learned about the positive and negative aspects of collaboration between nonprofits. On the one hand, collaboration between nonprofits could foster many different relationships and communications that could be vital to the growth and functionality of an organization. For example, Domestic Violence Services could team up on a case with Habitat for Humanity in order to build a house for a mother and her children after they leave shelter. Perhaps the family lived with the husband and did not have access to bank accounts, housing, or any funds after the separation. This family, though, may not be aware of the services available to them through a different nonprofit. This collaboration could make a huge difference in people’s lives. Unfortunately, if the communication is not there, the family suffers and the mission statements of both organizations are not being carried through. On the other hand, I see how in some situations, collaboration could lead to “business” being taken away from one organization and brought to another. For example, most colleges and universities are nonprofit and have very similar goals. They all want to best educate students. If Gettysburg College and Dickinson College paired up and shared great ideas on global education, Dickinson might lose some of its students to this other college because they also had an expansive global education program. There is also a risk of losing donors if there is collaboration with certain other nonprofits. A donor might have a problem with the way another nonprofit is run or may have a problem with their mission statement, therefore does not support their collaboration, and no longer the original nonprofit they once supported. For example, in 2005, Mattel (a for-profit and producer of Barbie) aligned with nonprofit agency Girls Inc. in order to promote education and higher self-esteem for girls. The purpose on the part of Mattel was to take focus away from the waif-like doll and let the public know that they care about girls and their health. Unfortunately, some Americans, loudest being members of the Christian group CWA, Concerned Women for America, opposed this collaboration accusing Mattel of promoting bisexuality and gender confusion for teenagers. This organization claimed that Girls Inc. through their support of all women was supporting and in a way promoting lesbianism. Girls Inc. does support the rights of lesbians, and CWA thought that this would be contrary to the education that girls should be receiving about homosexuality. In the end, CWA protested Mattel and encouraged its members to not support an organization such as Girls Inc. through the purchase of Barbie Dolls. This is a prime example of a negative effect of collaboration. Regardless of anyone’s personal opinion on the issue, this collaboration resulted in loss of business. Were Mattel and nonprofit, it could have lost the support of donors. In conclusion, it is easy to see how different nonprofits joining together could result in negative outcomes for each organization; on the other hand, especially in the cases of direct service nonprofits, collaboration can be vital to the organizations ability to carry out the mission statement.

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