publication date: Dec 14, 2011
author/source: Jennelle Dippel
During a lecture in the communications program I recently
completed, our professor tossed out the question, "How many of you would like
to work for a not-for-profit when you are done here?"
I innocently glanced around the room,
eager for my hand to join a forest of excited limbs waving in the air. Isn't
that what all of us feeling-oriented, people-loving communicators want to do?
My arm shot up and I counted one, two ... three other hands.
Why weren't my fellow communications
comrades itching to join the crusade? Well, many of them had tried at one point
or another and their experiences had been less than they'd hoped for. They shared
the two main frustrations they had encountered in the social sector:
Lack of communication
- They were unsure of their duties, didn't know who to listen to, and generally
felt in the way of those in charge (who tended to run around them like headless
Lack of appreciation
- Some felt that their time and education were actually valued less in the
social sector than in the corporate one, and they received little feedback for
I was a bit unnerved by the attitudes
of my classmates but nonetheless eager to give the social sector a try. When I
was presented with an opportunity to be part of Mercy Ships
, the organization behind the
world's leading charity hospital ship, I excitedly accepted.
And? What did I discover running from
the voices of my peers into an office of the social sector?
communication and appreciation work
Mercy Ships has confirmed that
communication and appreciation can in fact be the cornerstones of a
not-for-profit. Their mandate of bringing hope and healing is present in the
way they build relationships in their small office as much as it is when they
perform life-saving surgeries onboard the Africa
I have no doubt that this abounding
internal communication on home soil leads to more successful fieldwork in
Africa. My experience at Mercy Ships confirms how crucial it is to build
healthy, affirming, communicating environments at an office level.
From the mouth of my boss, Canadian
national director Tim Maloney
the mission of an organization defines its purpose, the capacity to reach that
purpose can be traced directly to the quality of the people who commit their
talent, time and energy to it."
How unfortunate that future leaders and
talent are fended off in some corners of the sector simply because this
sentiment is either missing or ignored - often merely because organization and
intentionality are lacking within the office!
truths are simple
Having just spent significant time in
the classroom I know that a little 101 has sometimes bored but never hurt
anybody, so perhaps it is good to pause, read and repeat some big, simple
simple thing number one:
Nonprofit work is not
always romance. It is different being in an office (where I am) than being on a
hospital ship (where I am not). This is perhaps part of the challenge for those
of us just entering the field.
simple thing number two:
If employees and
volunteers are not taken care of first, it will likely be an uphill run toward
the goal. Communication and appreciation are vital factors in creating either
roadblocks or building blocks within an organization.
Reading and repeating are fairly
simple. It's much harder to undo entrenched patterns and bring an organization back
to its centre. But taking time is a requisite for making time, as they say.
As a student-turned-social-sector-employee,
I am glad to be here. And I am grateful that my experience with Mercy Ships has
given me an exceedingly healthy foundation of these, the big, simple things, to
build upon in my future within the social sector.
Jennelle Dippel is PR & communications coordinator at Mercy Ships, an
organization providing free surgeries to the world's poorest people along the
west coast of Africa. She was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta and now
enjoys life by the ocean on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
holds a degree in communications from Royal Roads University. Writing is her
passion and she believes that, from interpersonal relationships to
corporations, healthy communication is a fundamental element of happiness and
Contact her by email.