Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond is a small chapter of a much larger national nonprofit here on Monument Avenue. The entire staff is based on the premises of the beautiful house placed right outside the Davis Memorial. Because of this proximity, there is a lot of interaction between the handful of employees, volunteers, and interns, both administrative and non-administrative. In my short time at RMHC Richmond, I have already met many of the house volunteers who dedicate their time to helping maintain the household and manning the front desk, the loyal housekeeper named Timothy, administrative officers, and a few of the other 6 interns that have been hired for the summer.
The general environment of the House is very casual and not at all a traditional work environment. Everyday I walk through the main door of the House and then make my way to the backyard where the carriage house is, this is where the development and communications teams work as well as the executive positions on the second floor. I sit quietly a couple feet from my advisor and do the work the she has assigned over Google Drive, if any questions come up, I can message her over Google Chat or if there are fewer people in the house at the moment, I can voice the concern directly to her. Either way, I do not need to worry with the formalities of emailing her, and I have the benefit of having her just a few feet away.
The other staff all seem to be friends and they are very inviting to myself and my fellow interns to make us part of the conversation and include us. We all take our lunch break together in the kitchen of the house where we get to feast on the left over meals that have been made for the guests on prior days, and we eat at one of the small kitchen tables together and get to know each other. Just the other day, I was invited to celebrate our Executive Director’s birthday in the living room with all the other staff that was present at the time and I saw how much they all knew each other and enjoyed spending time with one another.
This comfort with each other and familiarity helps the organization do its best because of how easy the communication level is. Even if one staff member is swamped with work to do and accidentally overlooks an email from another, they are close enough that the second individual can just approach them later and ask about it or even just casually bring it up at lunch with the other and discuss the matter over their meals. Nonprofits rely on communication like this; despite there being different offices with specific responsibility, they are all intertwined and their cooperation with each each other is necessary. For example, Dianna is Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager so she is responsible for all the people who end up helping out at the house in any way as well as dealing with in-kind donations to the organization. There must be direct communication between her and my advisor, Meg, because she helps to supply the events that Meg plans with volunteers.
I believe this bond is of utmost importance. Nonprofits are tricky to work in because not everything is certain. These organizations rely completely on the altruism of others which is difficult to predict; it is necessary that everyone is in the know about what is going on in each department as they happen so the adjustments can be made accordingly throughout the entire organization in order to keep it running. However, I think that RMHC Richmond could still be a little bit more organized. It is understandably difficult to maintain an entire guest house with constantly changing guests, run several off-site programs in hospitals, and run an organization all from one location, but it leads to a certain amount of chaos. There are some moments when the phone rings and a staff member who is in the middle of their lunch has to jump up and get it, or families try to check in while the front desk is unoccupied, or one staff member is off-site at a meeting when someone on-site realizes they need them for another matter. These moments are few and often fixed within moments, but a greater amount of order to the entire organization would probably be helpful to minimize these inconveniences.