In the Spring River Area of Arkansas, comprised of the cities of Ash Flat, Cherokee Village, Highland, and Hardy, in the United States, you will find dedicated people serving to make life better for the common good of the community in organizations like the Mission of Hope, Comfort Keepers, CASA, John 316 Ministries, New Beginnings, and many others. Nonprofit organizations are making significant strides across America and indeed worldwide, working tirelessly to tackle complex challenges such as poverty eradication, empowering children with literacy programs, and advancing education to foster equity and social justice. These organizations are dedicated to implementing effective solutions and driving positive change in communities near and far. What makes these organizations unique are the nonprofit professionals who provide day-to-day boots on the ground to deliver programs and services to meet the needs of people and improve their quality of life. Service provider professionals is a term distinctive to the nonprofit sector because nonprofit organizations are the communities’ safety net, delivering public programs and services for the common good of the community and its citizenry.

I am always profoundly moved by the dedication of these professionals, who many times serve others to the detriment of their mental, physical, and emotional health. Perhaps you know, have met, or are one of these professionals dedicated to fulfilling the nonprofit organization’s mission— individuals who work tirelessly to deliver public programs and services. These professionals may be tired, overworked, underpaid, and often overwhelmed in meeting the needs of so many, and continually working in organizations that operate on a shoestring budget from inadequate funding and resources. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one professional, speaking of the additional stress of increased programming needs with decreased resources, said, “The twinkle has gone out of my eye” as a tear leaked down her cheek. The inability to meet the unmet needs of people imposed by state and federal regulations and a decrease in resources had overcome a passionate yet battle-worn servant of the people. And yet, she continued in service as that tear, one of many, trickled.

What motivates these professionals to keep going to meet the needs of people when they lack the resources and funding to do so? Slogans like: Be all you can be—give them your voice—help preserve the places you cherish—and—if you want to be remembered, do something memorable—describes the essence of the heart that motivates nonprofit professionals to make a difference.

As a nonprofit professional of more than forty years, it has been my experience that passion for making a difference is a powerful driving force of professionals in the nonprofit sector. For instance, acclaimed Café Momentum chef Chad Houser’s passion led him to provide jobs for kids coming out of juvenile detention. The results were remarkable; the mission of Café Momentum to transform young lives and help them achieve their full potential had terrific results, with 85% of youth who work for Café Momentum never returning to the juvenile system. Houser said, “There is no quick overnight solution that can course-correct decades of disinvestment, neglect, and marginalization. But we can at least attempt to create a new system of support for our kids coming out of the justice system. We can create a place for them to land.” Working in the nonprofit sector can be rewarding and meaningful as nonprofit organizations respond to improve the quality of life for the common good of the community.

Perhaps you are familiar with some of the following slogans that embody the work of nonprofit organizations. Stand up for a child—putting information in the hands of the world—would you care more if I were a panda—heal a hurting world—filling pantries, filling lives—empowering communities—ending poverty—and—give a hoot, don’t pollute. Being a passion-minded person with an altruistic desire to make a difference is the tip of the iceberg in the rewards that come from service in the nonprofit sector. Intrinsic rewards include making significant direct impacts, collaborating to solve complex social problems, working with incredible people, lending expertise, and obtaining considerable influence and responsibility in one’s career. Working in the nonprofit sector provides rewards where you can feel great about your work.

August 17, 2023, commemorates in the United States a National Nonprofit Day to recognize nonprofit organizations and their ongoing efforts to serve local communities. It is the nonprofit professionals within the organizations that, through their service, contribute to shaping society and providing hope for a brighter future. Every day should be a designated nonprofit professionals day; however, I would settle for one day to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of this sector across the globe. If you have ever dedicated your time as a volunteer or worked as a professional in the nonprofit sector, you undoubtedly understand the importance of these individuals and the remarkable impact these organizations have on our communities.

This week, I leave you with a quote by Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” Now, whether or not you agree with the quote, perhaps by volunteering with a nonprofit organization, you will find a passion for serving that brings a twinkle to your eye as you make a difference in your community for the common good. Thank you to the nonprofit professionals who make a difference in the quality of life in our communities every day. You are simply the best because community matters.

In Community,

Dr. Pat

Dr. Patricia A. Clary is a syndicated columnist who consults with nonprofit and business sector partnerships that promote strategic community impact agendas to solve complex societal issues through governance, collaboration, and convening leadership. Connect with Dr. Clary, LinkedIn, Facebook PatriciaAClaryPhD, or at [email protected]. ©2023 All Rights Reserved.

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Patricia A. Clary, Ph.D.

Columnist Community Matters / Collaboration / Convening Leadership / Governance / Systems-Thinking