Bonnie I

Project SHARE is an organization that focuses on providing food, clothes, and nutritional education to those in need in the Carlisle community. Once a month they offer a week of food distribution to men, women, children, families, and the elderly. Various companies in the area donate food to go to these clients. Every Wednesday of every week is the clothing distribution. They also offer once a month “Kids in the Kitchen” which is a program designed to teach children how to cook and how to eat nutritiously. Three times a month they offer “Soup to Nuts” which is a cooking program designed for adults. Project SHARE is lucky to have the local farms who offer some of their products such as apples, watermelons, and many other fruits and vegetables. The benefit of working with these farms is that Project SHARE sends volunteers to the farms to pick this produce and SHARE gets a donation of the product. There is a strong relationship between Project SHARE and the community for this reason.

I personally impacted the people in the agency by making this promotional video for Project SHARE to send to missions and churches to gather more volunteers for the organization. Nonprofits can only function with the help of volunteers. By coming to take pictures at some of the major programs offered at SHARE including Kids in the Kitchen, Food Distribution, and Clothing Distribution I was able to interact with both the volunteers for whom I created the video as well as the clients. I was able to really see that Project SHARE serves all people from young to old throughout this community. I met a man who fifteen years ago used Project SHARE’s services but today is one of the volunteers. Project SHARE helped him to create a better life for himself by providing the necessities so that he could focus his own efforts on helping himself. His story is truly motivating because he utilized the programs and now he is giving back to his community, to those who helped him. I realize that with volunteers like him, Project SHARE will continue to help people who need food, clothing, and nutritional education. I also hope that the video I helped create will bring new volunteers to Project SHARE who believe in their mission and who will dedicate their time to a good cause.

This experience has made me realize what a tough job it is to manage a nonprofit organization. Elaine Livas, the executive director of Project Share, was able to utilize our class for many different projects for her. Two groups from our class were recreating and updating promotional videos. We spent the semester learning about marketing for nonprofits and that you have to market differently to different clients. I also learned through working with SHARE the other various problems a nonprofit can face including organizational difficulties, volunteer retention, the need for networking, and the demands placed on the executive director. Delegation is necessary, however there must be a strong enough group of directors to which to delegate. I think it is important that this class be a service learning course because not only did we have the classroom experience to hear about nonprofit management, but we also had the hands on, interactive experience to understand what we learned in class.

Two weeks ago, the three of us went to show Elaine our video. We had scheduled a meeting for 2pm and everyone was aware of this meeting. We had most of our video to show to make sure that we were on the right track and that they (Elaine and Pam) approve of our progress and our product at that time. The three of us arrived on time for that meeting and as soon as we entered the building Pam told us that Elaine would not be able to make the meeting.

We understand that she must have a very demanding job and that she must be very busy, however it seems very unprofessional to just not attend a planned meeting. Pam is very helpful (I’m unsure of her position with Project SHARE, but I’m sure it’s a full-time position) but she doesn’t give us any feedback on our work. She leaves all of that up to Elaine, who wasn’t at the meeting. What ended up happening was that Pam watched our video, she said she enjoyed it and that Elaine would watch it and send us feedback. Elaine’s feedback was “Great job on the video”. She had no comments and no changes to suggest.
The fact that Elaine didn’t attend our meeting, ask us to reschedule, or let us know personally that she would not attend seems like a slight leadership problem. As I already mentioned, I am aware that her job is very demanding. It would seem, however, that Pam, who is the second in command for our project has no voice. Her leadership is minimal. There appears to be a definite weakness in leadership at Project SHARE. Elaine has all the power, but not enough time to lead every aspect of the organization successfully. Delegation is not a tool being utilized at Project SHARE. Pam should have full ability to make suggestions and changes for our video, but she didn’t. It would benefit Elaine to take more of a supervisor role.

This past Friday when we were finally able to meet with Elaine and Pam and show them our final product, it was then that they had changes for us. They told us we had to add the United Way logo on the video, which is not a major change, but this would have been something they could have told us two weeks ago when they saw the rough copy of the video. Organization is also a factor that SHARE may need to focus upon.

A few side notes about organization within Project Share would include the lack of technological organization. What I mean by this is that SHARE has a lot of digital photos that would have been useful to our video, however, different photos were on different computers throughout the office. It would make sense to have one photo database on one computer, or on a network of all the computers. After listening to other classmates working with Project SHARE they also would agree that the organization of important files doesn’t exist.

Another place I noticed a lack of organization is how long the line was during distribution week. About thirty people can be in the distribution area at once. This leaves about fifty people to wait in line at a given time during the few hours distribution is open each day.

There are various leadership issues that Elaine faces currently including delegation, supervising, and organization.

A few weeks ago in April, Monique and I went to Project SHARE to videotape a food distribution day. Our goal was to get volunteers opinions of the work they’re doing for the community by volunteering at Project SHARE. We have a lot of great interviews from some of the volunteers. One man we met has been volunteering with SHARE for over ten years, and he said he helps people in the community by volunteering there because they helped him. Other volunteers included a group of middle-school aged girl scouts, a group of young girls serving their community by volunteering for their confirmation, a family that came together to volunteer, retirees, and many others.

The number of volunteers was incredible. There were definitely enough volunteers for all of the different things that needed to be done during food distribution, however, there was one important aspect of the volunteers that I found to be important.

As Monique and I went from volunteer to volunteer asking them to answer our questions: What is your favorite part about working with Project SHARE? and Why do you volunteer at Project SHARE? we learned that most of the volunteers were at Project SHARE for the first time. It is a good thing for a nonprofit organization to have a steady stream of new volunteers often; however, I find it interesting that about seventy-five percent of the volunteers were there for the first time. It would seem to me that volunteer retention is something that Project SHARE could look into.

When Cecille Strand came to speak with our class about volunteers one important thing she said was that volunteers must believe in the mission of an organization. Since Project SHARE has an established mission, it may be possible that volunteers find other places to volunteers, or since SHARE requires the most volunteers during one week every month these workers find their time is better spent somewhere where they can serve more than just one week of the month. To me, this makes it seem like if Project SHARE gave more opportunities for volunteers their retention rate may increase.

Two other necessary aspects of a volunteer program, according to Cecille Strand, are a full-time volunteer coordinator, and a pamphlet that states all the opportunities for volunteers at the organization. I know for a fact that Project SHARE doesn’t have a pamphlet directed towards volunteers; this would be another marketing tactic they could think about. There is a section on their website offering dates for various services; however it doesn’t specifically call for volunteers. As for the volunteer coordinator, I believe they have someone, but after working with them for a semester, I still don’t know who that person is.

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