Since I worked during January, I did not participate in any gleaning. Instead I mostly helped in the office, hoping to gain knowledge on how to run a small non-profit. My tasks included a variety of office jobs including working on organizing photos on Picasa, data entry, organizing a Volunteer Party, cleaning up the 2011 gleaning statistics, writing donor thank you letters, etc. While many of these tasks seem relatively mundane, they all play a crucial role in running a small non-profit efficiently.
My work for Boston Area Gleaners over January made me aware of a few basic concepts that every non-profit has to focus on in order to maintain a successful organization. The first is an emphasis on fundraising and grant writing. Often a non-profit organization starts with a project that is run by a few people (often good friends) that are willing to dedicate large amounts of their time for very little money. However as the organization grows, they are no longer able to sustain the organization with such small funds. So the ability to fundraise or obtain grants becomes extremely important. On this note, I found that most of Boston Area Gleaners’ money came from donors. So my supervisor was always emphasizing the need to recognize and thank the organizations donors at every opportunity. For example, the volunteer party and donor thank you letters were ways that Boston Area Gleaners showed their appreciation. Secondly, having the right tools for database management becomes increasingly important as the organization grows. For example, Boston Area Gleaners stored their data in three different programs, however it would be much more efficient to obtain a better system that is specialized in database management like Microsoft Access. This is hard for non-profit organizations because this type of software is often expensive and requires the latest computer models.
Overall I had a great experience working with Boston Area Gleaners and I learned a great deal about the struggles of running a small non-profit organization.