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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 8:30am



posted by
Mary Kaech

Project Assistant and Writer, 
 at Food for the Hungry

Working in the fundraising office of an international nonprofit can sometimes be a bit of a soul-killing experience. "The field" is hundreds or thousands of miles away, and it's hard for me to see that I’m "making a difference" when sitting behind a computer all day. This is why I’m grateful for our office volunteers.

For one thing, they’re just fun. We have volunteers of all ages, races, and walks of life. We have home-schooled kids and recovering addicts. Peter: a former mechanic who rarely smiles but keeps coming back, week after week, and Lorraine: a well-dressed socialite who buys every employee in our department a present on her birthday. I love getting to know them personally while hosting them in our office, and their attitudes remind me that my job is a privilege.

Volunteers walk in the door exuding that bushy-tailed enthusiasm I had as an intern. They’re sacrificial, hard-working, and grateful for the chance to serve. To the cause of fighting extreme poverty, they freely give their time— time they cannot get back— and to me, they give encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants. Their service reminds me that beyond just being thankful for my paycheck (so many of our volunteers are unemployed), I should be thankful to work in a place that allows me to exercise my beliefs and help others improve their circumstances— even if I may never meet those people.

If you need a reminder that your job is a gift and a responsibility, find yourself a volunteer or two. Shouldn’t we all work for our various causes with the ardor of those who are willing to work for free?




Mary Kaech is a native Arizonan who longs to see oppressed, marginalized people reach their full potential. She works full-time at an international nonprofit and loves volunteering with some of Phoenix’s 10,000+ refugees. In her spare time, she hangs out with her husband and friends, often feasting on wings and beer.

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Great post.

Organizational culture is hard to develop, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that volunteers can be the most enthusiastic people in an organization. When you're dealing with board issues, program issues, and administrative things, it's easy to get cynical and see everything as a line item.

I know that I definitely work best when there are people around encouraging each other!

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