What was your first job? What summer jobs did you have? How did this impact your life?
January 10th, 2012
Shelley Irwin, host of WGVU Radio Morning Show as well as WGVU-TV programs, has had me on every month on her radio show in a segment known as “Perspectives in Philanthropy” for a number of years. It is a great way to delve into topics of interest in our community as well as highlight key aspects of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.
This past Monday on Shelley’s show, I talked about the key accomplishments of the Community Foundation in 2011 and provided a glimpse into what I thought would be happening in 2012 overall in terms of charitable giving and the local economy. We got to talking about an important effort that was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation last May focusing on summer youth employment opportunities focusing particularly on youth of color. That sparked a quick conversation on air about our summer jobs back in the day!
Shelley is younger than I am and frankly these days it seems like everyone is younger than me! A testament to my age is that my first job was that as a want-ad checker at The Detroit News. The ad copy would be on sheets of paper that looked like Western Union telegrams that would be filed alphabetically by classification of the ads by a group of high school students, mostly children of News employees. This was so long ago that there were separate categories for jobs for women and jobs for men! Frankly when you think about it – it wasn’t THAT long ago. No wonder women still are trying to climb the ladder of equality! But that’s a blog entry for another time.
The radio program conversation made me curious so I went on Facebook and posed the question - what were the first jobs or summer jobs of the friends I follow on that social media site. Very interesting results! Is there a correlation between those first employment forays and the careers or jobs that people hold today? AND most importantly, how this does relates to young people who are eager to enter the job market and their future success? Here’s a wonderful journal written by our Public Relations Intern Molly Murray last summer who interviewed some young people who participated in the summer program. This is well worth reading!
In case you are curious, here are only some of the results of my Facebook inquiry regarding first jobs or summer jobs:
- Worked in food service in a nursing home. I was an expert in pureed veggies!
- Ice cream scooper at a small joint on Grand Rapids’ NE side
- Gas attendant at a gas station at Breton Village.
- Babysitting was my first paying job. I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts and Sally’s Beauty Supply. I also started my own cupcake business with a good friend.
- Mowed lawns for $1 a yard. Started when I was 14 in the neighborhood. Had a nice little business and made $12 a week!
- Pruned trees and worked on watersheds for the Youth Conservation Corps.
- “Tool Crib Girl” at Lear Siegler!
- Salad Girl at the Pen Club
- And many more!
The point of all this is that we all had opportunities to develop our skills, learned how to “go to work”, and developed an appreciation for what it takes to be employed! I know from reading the journal compiled by Molly Murray that the young people employed last summer through the efforts of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and many wonderful nonprofit partners in our community that they also had the good experiences to help catapult them into future occupations and careers - and key to this was that they were given the opportunity !
Kind of makes you wonder . . . how did a want-ad checker become a Foundation President? Hard work, perseverance and knowing how to relate to many different people in many different situations! Onward we go!
Are nonprofits less than . . . ??
May 12th, 2010It happened again! Addressing a large group of nonprofit, foundation, and national organization leaders recently, a business leader was trying to convey generally a positive message about how his company has taken the leap to employ people who need many supports to succeed in a competitive employment environment. However, where he tripped was when he uttered something like, "But then you are not employers here today."
HUH!? He was struggling because he likely would have liked to have said, but none of your organizations are "in business" or are for-profit enterprises. The social sector is often viewed as "less than" for-profit businesses for reasons that are just plain short-sighted.
Having talked on the value of this sector for many years and written on the topic, frankly I'm plum out of steam as there is no way to convince leaders here and around the country about the tremendous value that is returned to society by the nonprofit/social sector. Jim Collins did discover that value and wrote a monograph entitled "Good to Great and the Social Sectors" back in 2005. His premise was: "Why business thinking is not the answer" - a very wise man.
In 1998 the forerunner organization to the Community Research Institute (CRI) at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University researched and published a report on the Economic Impact of the social sector in Kent County. At that time it was determined that the sector represented 7% of the local economy and that the economic impact was more than $1 billion!
A study was also conducted in 2006 and updated in March 2007 by CRI on this very topic and the following was found: The total economic impact of the nonprofit sector in Kent County was measured to be $2.1 billion and that local nonprofits (at that time) employed 33,000 people which may be lower in 2010 given the recession. Also it was noted that the sector supported an additional 14,800 jobs in the for-profit sector. Here's the link to this report as well as reports measuring the economic impact of the social sector for Newaygo, Muskegon and Ottawa Counties.
An important message is found in these reports which states while the economic impact of the sector is important, it is the impact that it is has on the quality of life which attracts and retains businesses in our communities as well as addressing the very serious problems surrounding the human condition.
Not employers!? Hardly! The social or nonprofit sector is critical to our society. The leaders do have strong leadership and financial skills and if they don't, they won't survive! Just like in business.
Robust leadership needed right NOW!
March 9th, 2009Two weeks ago I wrote an email to the Foundation's Board of Trustees commenting on the economy and its impact on the Foundation and our community. The content has become the centerpiece for my article in the next issue of our newsletter Current. Here's an excerpt from the email:
"After spending the better part of the past three days with the CEOs of Community Foundations from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois in Lorain County Ohio, I came back not as full of hope as I had wanted. Stories of investments continuing to shrink dramatically, grantmaking, while taking a role of prominence, is not as robust as it once was along dealing with the uncertainty of how this country's economy and indeed the global economy will stabilize. Have I totally depressed you yet? I hope not because now more than ever before this board's leadership is paramount.
* How do we cope and hopefully thrive in this horrific environment?
* How do we actively grow our assets for the future of our community?
* How will we advocate for the dollars needed to flow into west Michigan and not become a "state divided" - east versus west?
* What role will the Grand Rapids Community Foundation play to be among the key forces influencing the ultimate recovery in our area?
Enough of the hand wringing! Lucy Bernholz, a person whose name may be recognizable to some of you more veteran trustees, influenced our last strategy plan with her ground breaking research on the future for community foundations written back in 2005 along with Katherine Fulton. I'll be referencing her work more as we move through this year. She was reading my Twitter entries (tweets)* over the past three days re: the meeting of foundation CEOs in Ohio and she recommended her blog entry from earlier this week and a blog entry by a Harvard professor Marty Linsky for whom I have a great deal of respect.
Rather than lamenting and wringing my hands and holding my head up with my hands, I thought I'd share this also with all of you as this is really the message I heard from all of you at our last board meeting. Both blog entries and the video embedded in them both are well worth the time to read, view and listen. I'll be interested in your reactions."
I included the following link in the message and do so for all readers of this blog:
Lucy Bernholz's blog entry from February 24th entitled: "It is restructuring not a recession"
I am not looking at the world through rose colored glasses though sometimes I'm tempted. This is about the leadership needed right now particularly in the nonprofit sector and indeed from this Foundation. This is not the time to hide - to hunker down - wither away. This IS the time to move forward looking to innovation beyond survival. As Dr. Linsky writes "The more courageous in the foundation community are using this crisis as an opportunity to encourage [their] grantees to make hard choices and to help them through . . . the trauma . . . as they contemplate mergers, starting innovative programs that might meet future needs and priorities . . .Those are reset ideas."
*Social networking sites like Twitter are increasingly important and not just for kids! Great way to share ideas.