Throughout my first two weeks at Voices of September 11th, I am slowly becoming familiar with the leader/follower dynamics of the organization. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has largely impacted the way in which the organization operates, specifically in regard to the shift to a remote environment and a changing target audience for its services. Despite these changes, it is clear that the organization takes into account the input of its staff while maintaining a general level of authority and decisiveness.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Voices of September 11th operated in an office-setting in town. Now, given the new circumstances, the whole team is working remotely and using platforms such as Zoom, Goto Meeting, and email to communicate. While I do not know what it was like working in the office prior to shifting to a remote setting, I can tell that the team is still getting used to working in this new atmosphere. In addition to the work environment, COVID-19 has brought about many changes to the overall mission and strategy of Voices. Primarily, Voices serves the victims, families of victims, and first responders of September 11th by providing them with social support. Recently, Voices has evolved and now extends its services to communities affected by all types of tragedy and mass violence. Thus, their overall brand is shifting, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Given the novelty of this situation, they are now shifting their mission to provide mental health support services for community members who are struggling to find balance and stability in these uncertain times.
As such, the main leadership of the organization – Frank and Mary Fetchet – has taken this unique opportunity to consider feedback from the team about how Voices can best shift its services to target this new ‘audience.’ Because Voices is such a small organization, it resembles a close-knit team in which each person feels valued and listened to. Frank and Mary founded Voices after their son passed away on September 11th and recruited the help of a small team, two of which have been employed for over thirteen years. Given this close nature, Frank and Mary illicit many responsibilities and total trust in most of the team when it comes to decision making. As an intern, I have observed that Mary and Frank appreciate feedback from all employees, regardless of their ‘level.’ For example, each Monday we all participate in a staff meeting. Each employee (including interns) all attend, and each has a designated time to discuss their newest experiences and ideas. In the most recent meeting, Frank and Mary asked each of us to describe what the future Voices audience looks like and how we can target them. Given the nature of COVID-19, it became clear from many opinions that they must focus on viewing COVID-19 as a form of tragedy and to start researching potential new clients/audience members. While Frank and Mary make the key decisions, I feel that the entire team was involved in this decision to put forth more time and resources toward supporting community mental health initiatives as a result of COVID-19.
Given the fact that Voices covers multiple areas of community support through different channels, the team of ten employees all have unique positions. For example, Frank oversees the entire organization and helps out with each team. Mary has a similar role to Frank but is also a social worker. She works directly with clients and also leads many seminars (now webinars) to community members, other professionals, and so on. In addition, there is a technology team that is responsible for administering the website, coordinating all remote meetings, and creating graphics. There is another team that works on fundraising/marketing initiatives. The rest of the employees are responsible for working on the main projects and events that Voices hosts each year. As an intern, I have been given the unique opportunity to work on each team throughout the summer, which will help me get a more comprehensive understanding of the many facets of a nonprofit.
Overall, the leadership at Voices has a strong sense of community and teamwork with an undertone of main authority from both Mary and Frank. COVID-19 has slightly altered that framework, but Voices has evolved well and is finding a greater sense of purpose and direction amidst these changing times.