by Leslie Ann Jackson
Recently, we engaged in a storytelling exercise. We were asked to describe our work in just a couple sentences – a practice I’m sure familiar to many of you. Mine typically begins with “I love my job!” followed by various reasons why, usually depending on the activities of the day or sometimes the year. No matter what the rationale du jour may be, it boils down to two things – the people I meet and the places I go. Those two things come together the best in the form of site visits.
Through our affiliate network, our board members and staff have been conducting site visits for many years. In fact, we’ve been doing them for so long that we are dedicating some time to updating our guidelines and materials for our affiliate foundation site visits.
We’ve also begun making site visits on behalf of some of our fundholders at their milestone grant levels, inviting their participation. We welcome them to join us for the visit, or we will report back to them about our experience following the visit. Either way, it creates a unique opportunity for conversation with our donors and grantees alike, and of course, site visits touch upon those two things that I love most about my job -- the people and the places.
The Places: Recently, I traveled to South Caldwell Christian Ministries, an organization in Granite Falls that provides food, clothing and emergency assistance to people in need. We have a history of supporting this organization, and just last year, one of our component funds made a large grant to assist in the construction of a new building for food storage. It was a treat to step inside of it and envision it full of food and activity as local residents come by to obtain the goods they need for their families.
The People: Our local Regional Associate, John Francis, and the fundholders who recommended that grant were able to come along with me, and I sensed that the experience was meaningful to them as well. What a pleasure for me to meet these generous people and to witness – right alongside them -- their charitable intentions brought to life! Most inspirational of all were the words of Executive Director Deborah Thomas, who described her work as a calling. The countless hours, the problem-solving and fire-quenching, the “make it work” attitude that is necessary for nonprofits – all so that people can have their needs met with care and dignity.
Sure, we talked about budgets and grant opportunities and obstacles and reporting requirements, but at the end of the day (or rather, at the end of the site visit), the people and the places are what matter – more than the dollars and cents.
So, ask me about my job…I love my job! I get to travel to places where good is happening in North Carolina, and I get to meet the people who are doing and who are supporting that good work.