My friend, Cynthia Thelen, does such a beautiful job loving women right where they are but also loving them too much to leave them there. Her heart matches mine in that we just want to save the world. We want to love the world with a love greater than us. Sometimes that drive leads to believing our work will be a certain way. If you’ve ever wanted to save the world, through a nonprofit or in your own home, please read what Cynthia has to say….
“When I grow up I want to save the world.” I have had a passion to make a difference in the world all my life. My career in the non-profit field began as a volunteer and intern advocating for abused and neglected children in 1990. Even during a career hiatus, the Lord continued to place me in volunteer opportunities to serve those who were hurting. For the last 5 ½ years I have been Director of the Caring Connections Ministry where we empower, encourage and equip women stuck in the cycle of poverty or struggling to overcome addiction. Each day is a joy and an adventure and I’m honored to be part of their lives. However, there are aspects to non-profit work that I never expected.
Here are three myths about working in the non-profit field.
First, you can save the world. I would like to think that our work can make a difference for everyone, but the reality is sometimes we can only help and empower ONE person and that is good enough. Sometimes help doesn’t even look like what we planned because change has to come from within the receiver. Counseling, equipping, advocating, teaching, guiding…these are all parts of our non-profit work and they can’t be tied up neatly in a day planner or checked off a to do list like in the business world. Change takes time but it’s worth it.
Second, you will have office hours. I have official office hours and a general timeframe that people can reach me in the office. However, when I leave my office I don’t turn off the job. I think about the woman who might not have lights or heat while I’m eating supper with my children. When a text comes in while I’m snuggled on the couch with my son, I struggle not to get up and see if someone needs me. At Christmas when I’m celebrating with my family, my mind slips to those who are alone. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am always at work. If you work in a non-profit and especially in ministry, you not only have a passion for what you do, but a deep love for the people God has placed at your door. I can’t put up the office closed sign and I wouldn’t want to.
Finally, you will spend every day in service. I would love to spend all day leading support groups, on home visits, counseling those who are struggling, advocating for those who have no voice, sharing the love of Christ and teaching life and job skills. This is what the Caring Connections Ministry is all about. However, the reality is a large part of directing a ministry/non-profit requires administrative duties that aren’t part of your passion and you may not even be skilled at doing. You will have to ask for money. You will have to write reports. You will have to build a base of volunteers and speak to groups so others become passionate about serving with you. You will have to recruit a team and empower them too.
None of these myths really change anything for me. I would do it all again and still have the same heart and passion that I did when I first began. I still want to love the world.
Have a nonprofit or thinking of starting a nonprofit in the Raleigh area? We have two events coming up. Connect by joining us May 3rd. (Save the date for the second event June 9th. Information to come.)
Watch us on Instagram @VendRaleigh in April as we feature local nonprofits by photography from our Vend Raleigh Professional Photographers group.