ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 9:05am
posted by
Maureen Baker,
Manager for Individual Giving
Musical Instrument Museum

As a member of the board of YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network) Phoenix, I have been fortunate to cross paths with some extraordinary emerging leaders, facilitators, mentors, and nonprofit sector thought leaders. As YNPN Phoenix's annual member retreat approaches, I am reminded of a powerful experience from last year's retreat that still resounds with me today.

At the 2010 retreat, we benefited from the guidance of two fantastic facilitators in Raquel Gutiérrez and Cassandra O'Neill, who asked participants to bring with them an object that represented the reason they became involved with the nonprofit sector. As we sat in a circle on that first evening and shared the stories of our objects, I was struck by the themes that emerged as to how and why each of us had pursued work or volunteer service in the nonprofit sector, and also to what kept us committed to that service. At the conclusion of hearing everyone's stories, we were each asked to pick up an object that represented the story that had resonated with us the most and to silently return it to its owner.

Several people were inspired by passion for a cause that sprang from personal experience. Take me, for example — my object was a tin whistle (a more portable representation of my primary instrument, the flute). I grew up in a musical family, was fortunate enough to attend schools with excellent arts programs, majored in music in college, and still perform frequently today. I have had such a positive experience with music that I have been driven to share its joys with as many people as possible. In that pursuit, I have worked for a range of nonprofit organizations focused on music, including an orchestra, a music education organization, and now the Musical Instrument Museum here in Phoenix. I believe deeply in the work that each of these organizations undertakes, and feel extremely fortunate to be able to earn a living doing something that also brings me fulfillment.

Many others in the group shared that they were touched when they discovered or became aware of a problem that needed to be solved and felt called to be a part of the solution. And a large number had parents or other family members who set an example of service or volunteerism that they grew up to emulate.


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Each story represented a very personal journey that inspired the person on their path to nonprofit service, but what struck me the most was that most people emphasized the intangible benefits that nonprofit work provides to those who pursue it. From the camaraderie that comes from working toward a common cause to the rewards of seeing your efforts directly impact those in need, nonprofit work is special in its ability to engage both the mind and the heart.

Personally, these intangible rewards have become so important to me that I couldn't imagine pursuing work that did not offer them.

What has been your experience? What path led you to nonprofit work or volunteerism, what are the intangible rewards you have experienced, and how important are they to you?

Maureen Baker is the Manager for Individual Giving at the Musical Instrument Museum, serves on the board of YNPN Phoenix and on the core team of Emerging Arts Leaders of Phoenix, is a co-founder of Classical Revolution PHX, and is a member of Valley Leadership Class 33. Maureen is also flutist and co-founder of the Siroccan Winds wind quintet and a member of the soprano section of Scottsdale Choral Artists.

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Click here to read Sarah Hipolito's "Switching gears: How I found my place in volunteering.


I attended the first YNPN Phoenix Member Retreat as a general member, and I am looking forward to attending this year's retreat as a member of the board. My object the first year - as it will be this year - was a picture of my kids. Everything I do is motivated in one way or another by them and the idea that my work in the nonprofit sector helps create and foster a better community for them and others.

When I was younger (and even through college) I never saw myself becoming a part of the nonprofit sector as full time work until I started volunteering for a local animal rescue group and realized how many animals out there are really in need.
To speak for those who don't have voices has pulled at my heart strings and really motivated me to become more and more involved in animal welfare and the nonprofit sector in general. In past years I have worked at a couple of local nonprofit animal shelters and realized what an issue we have with pet overpopulation and mistreatment. Through those jobs I learned of the many ways I can do my part to help. While working at my last job I had a coworker whose spouse worked for the Phoenix Zoo, and through her discovered the major impact they have on national and international conservation efforts. I was very inspired by this, as the Phoenix Zoo is mainly known as a cultural attraction and not as much for its community outreach and impact they have with wild animals all over the world. I felt that even though I loved my current job (at the time) at a local animal shelter, helping with the bigger picture was calling me. Luckily a position in the fundraising department at the Phoenix Zoo opened up and I was quick to apply. I was thrilled when I got the job, and have currently held a position at the Zoo for a year and a half now.
To be involved with such a wonderful organization that focuses a lot of its resources on conservation efforts both locally and abroad, and teaches the community how they can help is such a rewarding position to be in.

I'm so glad I joined the nonprofit sector full-time, and look forward to spending the rest of my working career helping animals in every way I can!

Maureen, thank you for eloquently representing the "sacred object" activity! I love that it has become an important and meaningful practice at the YNPN Phoenix member retreat. It is so important to reflect on and share our purpose for serving!

In the year 2000, my wife and I attended a weekend retreat called, "Six Ways to the Passionate Soul", at which I idnentified my personal mission statement as "inspiring deeper levels of conversation and connecting people to opportunities for success".

That retreat led me to consider how I could live my mission in daily life. After reflection and conversation with friends and family, I realized the best way to live my mission was to work on behalf of the common good through a career in the nonprofit sector!

I made the switch from pharma sales to fundraising and then to program management. In every role I've served in the nonprofit sector - including as board president of YNPN Phoenix - I've been blessed with opportunities to inspire deeper levels of conversation and connect people to opportunities for success!

The sacred object I will share at this weekend's member retreat is a memento from that original retreat that took place over 10 years ago!

I actually knew pretty early on that I wanted a career helping others, but like most people I didn't know there was a whole sector dedicated to that task. I respected and wanted to work for many of the amazing nonprofits that serve our community, but didn't realize they where individual parts of a much greater whole. As I progress through my nonprofit career it is this sense of belong to a community of individuals dedicate to creating a great good that keeps me going. Don't get me wrong, the personal impact I can have on others is extremely powerful and rewarding. My object in years 1 and 2 of retreat were related to a tear jerking story about I child I help while working at a shelter. But this year it will be a memory based on that shared commitment. I count myself as fortunate to be a part of YNPN Phoenix, MNpS program and the great nonprofit sector as a whole because it is here that I have found some of the most amazing people I ever hope to know.

Aaron Stiner, a YNPN Phoenix member, asked for some help with the the YNPN graphics/promotions. Little did he know, he has helped ME over the past few years discover many facets of the nonprofit sector, the dedicated people within it, and its supporters which really resonates with me. I'm finding creative ways to promote the sector and try to positively shift the perception among people/business owners regarding it. Also encouraging people to get involved. I've been enriched by the contacts I've made and am grateful to be a part of the YNPN Phoenix community.

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