Thursday, May 3, 2012

When You Work for a Not-for-Profit...

I pay bills for a living.  Not exactly an overly-exciting occupation, but for the most part, it pays my bills, so I'll go with it.  ;-)  I've been working for a not-for-profit blood bank for nearly ten years now, and as time has passed it has become increasingly clear that the mentality of a not-for-profit organization is very, very different from that of a corporation.

My first clue that something was amiss was when I saw this expandable sorting folder being used by my co-worker.  Yes, this is the actual folder.  Note the use of stickers and handwritten letters to replace the tabs that had fallen off of the folder.  I laughed and asked my friend, "Why don't you just order a new one?"  Her response...  "No need to do that...  This one's still good!"  Clearly her 25 years of service to this particular organization has skewed her judgement as to what constitutes "good."  :-)

Add that "reconstructed" expanding folder to this old beauty, and you'll see just how far a good old not-for-profit will go in order to make the most of its equipment and supplies.  This is the actual copy machine that we use in our department.  That sign says, "To Make Copy, Gently Press Green Button and Move in a Counter-Clockwise Motion.  (No, really...  We're not kidding.)"  I am fairly certain this machine is older than I am, but as my friend says, "It's still good!"  It's a good thing too, because I don't believe they make the parts to fix it anymore.

About three years into my tenure here at the blood center, I got up the nerve to ask my boss if we could get electric staplers.  We each go through a good 500 staples a day, and after three years of manually stapling everything, we were starting to show signs of carpal tunal.  I wrote about my love of my new, rechargeable, battery-operated stapler once.  It was touch and go there for a while.  I practically had to write a formal proposal justifying the purchase of said stapler, but I think my employer's fear of losing the only people who paid the bills to weeks of surgical recoveries and medical leave won out.  The awesome staplers were purchased!  However we did receive strict instructions that these "were to last!"  :-)

Another sure sign that you work for a not-for-profit is the severe shortage of bonuses or perks of any kind.  When we are lucky enough to get a little something, most of my co-workers are easily appeased.  I remember the first time I witnessed the mass chaos caused by the word "FREE!"  When the sentence, "Free pencils in the breakroom!" came over the intercom one morning, the scene that played out before me was something akin to the Running of the Bulls.  Co-workers raced towards those free pencils like seagulls to potato chips, like vultures to roadkill, like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday...  I stood, my back pressed closely to the wall, and prayed that I would make it out alive.

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, we received an email from upper management informing us that all departments who participated in an upcoming survey would receive a pizza party.  All I saw was a photograph of moldy pizza.  My co-workers, on the other hand, saw "OMG!  FREE FOOD!!!"  Over the course of the next two weeks, I was hounded relentlessly by my peers.  "Have you taken your survey?"  "You've got to take your survey!"  "Hey, take your survey!"  I was afraid of a public flogging if I neglected my survey-taking duty, so I took the darn thing.  Ironically, the survey ended up being about company morale and ways to improve it.  I doubt they appreciated my smart@ss response of "Well, apparently the promise of moldy pizza works wonders around here!"

Yep, the mentality of a not-for-profit organization is quite different from that of corporation.  I am quite pleased to say that after 10 years working here, I have held strong to my beliefs and have not been permanently warped into thinking that duct tape will make my desk chair "like new again!"  My co-workers and their crazy antics just crack me up, and I am so happy that I have managed to maintain my dignit...  Hang on a sec...  They're making an announcement...


Gotta go...


Casey Everly said...

I can totally relate!

FootPrints said...

gosh this is funny!! love the " you have to massage the green button for the printer to work" photo ha ha!!

MamaFoster said...


Kylee said...

Sounds like college students : ) The best are the functions that have Free food AND free pencils. I'm totally there.

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