My time at RMHC taught me so much and gave me valuable knowledge and skills that I can take with me to future opportunities. Previously, I had expressed interest in expanding my professional resume and gaining real-life practice with interviews and functioning in a work environment. Specifically, I wanted to get a better understanding of the inner workings of nonprofits and how individual roles fit together to create a functional organization. I feel that having the opportunity to work as an Events and Fundraising Development Intern really helped me achieve these goals. Even if I do not pursue a job in the nonprofit sector, I feel comfortable that much of what I have learned is transferable and I can utilize it to my advantage with later professional opportunities.
Most of my assigned duties consisted of research other organizations to gain inspiration from their events as well as finding potential new donors. Past research, I was also tasked with reaching out directly, through phone and email or in person, to these donors as well as collecting and organizing data on every donation. Additionally, I was often expected to create graphics and flyers for various events and occasions. Each of these duties presented me with the opportunity to develop an existing skill or acquire a new one. In order to carry out research for RMHC, I had to be analytical and decisive so that I could gauge what was important or relevant to the prompt at hand. I also had to be creative with the research in order to find new and interesting items that could potentially be donated. Other skills that I was able to hone in on included organization and communication as well as tangible skills like working with MS Suite, Google Drive, and Canva.
RMHC also provided an interesting work environment for me where I was able to practice focusing as well as network with individuals from various fields. Being able to work at the Ronald McDonald House was a completely unique experience that I valued. It was much more relaxed than a traditional office but it still provided its own challenges and hurdles. I was not pushed to follow specific attire guidelines nor was I on a strict 9-5 schedule which I appreciated, but I had to deal with working in a fully functioning guest house that was nestled in a beautiful but busy neighborhood. My desk resided outside the main house and in the carriage house in the back, I relied heavily on staff member’s desk lamps and natural light through the windows to see and had to learn how to tune out the noise of animals, lawn mowers, and construction outside from the surrounding homes. Some days, I would work in the main house to make calls to donors. The phone that I used was placed in the living room that provided a sitting area, a television, and toys for the families staying there. Many of the calls I made were done so by speaking over the sound of talking and television, or while politely refusing to play with a child who was curious about the keys on my computer. Having these obstacles helped me to practice working in a chaotic environment and focusing on my tasks at hand.
Another perk that came from working inside a nonprofit guest house was being able to interact with the volunteers. Most of the staff had previous professions before deciding to go into the nonprofit field and there were many older volunteers that took time to talk to myself and the other interns to discuss their professions and careers. I really appreciated getting the opportunity to get to know all of these people to learn more about what they did, and all of them were more than happy to sit down and help me figure out a path that I could pursue post grad. One volunteer in particular helped to do this, she was a hiring manager and worked in career development before retiring and decided to set up professional development sessions for the interns throughout the summer. I was only able to go to one, interviewing, but I was able to learn from it and I feel much more comfortable preparing for and going into an interview. Gaining practice with interviewing was a goal that I noted in my Personal Plan Paper, and I was really excited to be able to actually learn about tricks and skills that I could use in order to have a more successful experience.
I really enjoyed being able to see our lessons in leadership classes come to life in a workplace. RMHC’s leadership structure is different from many traditional set-ups. Their small size allows there to be many departments with few people in them with no two people truly having the same job. Many of the staff have a number of meetings with each other per day in order to communicate what they are doing and to coordinate different roles both within one apartment or across multiple offices. Departments are also highly dependent on each other, so there is still a nice system of responsibility in place to keep everybody on track with one another. There is an Executive Director of the organization, but as far as I could tell, the subordinate staff more often asked for approval or permission rather than waiting for her to delegate assignments to them. I thought that helped the organization function more smoothly since decisions were all made by those who were specifically hired to make those calls rather than being made by a person who is slightly more removed from it all.
I noted in my Organizational Culture post that RMHC was very much like a family rather than a collection of coworkers and I think that impacts the overall function greatly. Their familiarity with each other is highly beneficial when it comes to communication which is crucial for daily operations. One of my favorite things that I noticed about their organizational structure was their Cross-Team meeting. This meeting occurred the second Tuesday of each month and involved the entire staff or whoever was currently available. I liked that it was not just department representatives to present on their co-workers’ behalves, I was even invited to those that I was present for and had the opportunity to speak about the projects that I had been working on.
RMHC was also able to give me a better look into how gender affects leadership. All of the executive, managerial, and coordinating positions are held by women; there are only three men on their staff. I appreciated seeing a group of independent women run a thriving nonprofit and learning how they are even growing and expanding further under this direction. It is not uncommon to see a majority of women in a nonprofit organization, but I was surprised to see that there were almost no men at all. I liked to see how the women behaved especially in settings like the Cross-Team meeting where explicit leadership was necessary as the meeting was mediated. In those meetings I learned about just how well the organization was doing and how much it has grown over the years and in those to come, and I saw how the leadership style impacted that. RMHC Richmond exemplifies the androgynous nature of good leadership that Linda Carli and Alice Eagly explore. The all female staff exhibit friendliness and unselfishness which are typically associated with femininity, they are also assertive when it comes to the needs of the organization which is considered a masculine quality. Most importantly the leaders of RMHC Richmond display androgynous traits like cooperation and team-building.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at RMHC Richmond; I appreciated the challenges it presented and the people that I was able to meet. Despite that, I still encountered some drawbacks. Although overall communication was usually very good between staff members, I found that a couple of my specific duties were made harder due to a lack of communication. A very wide range of individuals are in charge of soliciting donations for their annual gala in September. Solicitors were not only Development staff, but also other employees, board members, and ambassadors. Many of these people were not in constant communication with my supervisor, Meg, so it was often very difficult to gather all of the data on a donation item despite the fact that there were numerous platforms that one could use to input all of the necessary information. I think in the future it would be very smart for a Meg or an intern to contact a donor as soon as possible in order to regulate and standardize the information that is being received. I know having something like that would have made my job much easier and I could have been much more efficient with uploading the items to the online bidding platform. I am grateful for the experience and I am excited to learn that which I have learned in the future whether it is at a nonprofit or not. I hope to go back to RMHC sometime this year to volunteer!