A Day in the Life of a Nonprofit Worker


Most days I whine about everything at work being mundane, when really, that’s far from the truth. Some days are more exciting than others, but really, none of my job is mundane. Sure, the calling potential students and explaining in detail everything we offer… that gets old, but everything else that goes on is quite interesting.

Here’s an inside glance at what went on a few Thursdays ago at the center.

9:00ish AM- person on shift comes to unlock building, start coffee, turn on lights, etc. If I’m on shift I’m here by 8:40, otherwise it’s more like 9:15.

9:25 – students and tutors slowly start filtering in. I open my work and personal emails and check my calendar. Not too much on the agenda yet, but I’m sure stuff will come up.

9:50 – ESOL students make their way in from the cold, all bundled up and smiling. “Good morning teacher!” they chime as they walk past me, despite the fact that I’m not their teacher. Those three words make me smile. I reply, “good morning!” and walk back into my office.

10:15 – my officemate frantically runs into the office, digging through piles of paper on her desk looking for the missing papers from her lesson. “I wasn’t prepared for this to happen!” she mutters. In her defense, the morning ESOL class is a difficult one to handle!

10:20 – I walk down the hall to talk to another coworker, who is here in the mornings. I hardly see him, so I guess the 30+ minutes we spend talking makes up for that. He tells me all about the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art in NY, and how I will need more than a day to spend in each. We talk about having a love of the arts, and then he tells me in detail about the art gallery he helps market for a local business. He tells me about their target sales for next year, and ways he hopes they can reach that goal. On and on and on. Before I walk away, he compliments me on my outfit (dark skinny jeans, dark brown boots, white shirt, cardigan & beaded necklace from the Peruvian jungles) and I beam ear to eat. After all, he used to work in fashion!

11:00ish – break time for the ESOL students. And it’s around this time that I start getting hungry for lunch. I snack on some quinoa chips from TJ’s and drink some water, while checking twitter & facebook.

11:15 – the newest tutor I recruited finishes his lesson with his student, and comes into my office to say “thanks, I can tell I’m really going to enjoy this!” and gives me a hug. My day is officially made because I love hugs and hardly ever get them. Plus, you can see the joy emanating from his face as he tells me about the lesson and what they’re going to work on next time. That’s one of the parts of my job that I LOVE.

11:30 – I start entering data into our spreadsheets for how many hours volunteers volunteered the past months. Lots of volunteers forget to turn their hours in, which makes it hard on us to guesstimate. We report the hours to the state, so it’s kind of imperative that tutors let us know how many hours they volunteered!

11:53 – someone walks in and asks for more information about our GED program. She comes to my office and I tell her the process and let her know about student orientation dates. Wohoo student recruitment!

12:20 – I meander down the hall to talk with my supervisors and make lunch plans. We have a mini-meeting discussing tutor appreciation gifts, project deadlines, and lunch. No conclusions yet on the lunch.

12:30 – I send an email or two to tutors checking in on how lessons are going. I feel “attached” to a few tutors whom I helped train, match with a student, and introduce to their student… they are great pairs!

12:47 – a woman and her little girl walk in asking about ESOL classes. She only speaks Spanish, so I’m recruited to translate and let her know about student orientations and testing. After telling her I’ll see her in enero, I smile at the little girl and say chao! I love that I can use my Spanish at work.

12:55 – I start making phone calls to students on our inquiry list, informing them of the student orientations coming up in a few weeks. This is usually awkward because I’m not good on the phone… and talking with strangers only makes it worse. And sometimes, when people have a ringback tone that I know and hum to it until they answer… yeah, that can make things more interesting. 😉 It’s funny because a few people who are on my list either don’t remember calling us initially, or aren’t interesting in learning to read/get their GED. Whatevs.

1:19 – phone call to my extension. I talk to the prospective student for a few minutes and take down notes about her past education, age, and comfort with reading. I add her to the inquiry list and tell her about orientation the following month.

1:45 – ok, hunger pains are back. Coworker and I flip a coin to decide on a lunch location, and Sitar wins! As we head out into the cold rain, we make smalltalk.

1:55 – I “check in” at Sitar and head up to the buffet. I never realized how much I enjoy Indian food until discovering this buffet a few days earlier with the rest of my coworkers. Hot, spicy, and delicious. Oh, and there’s naan. Yum. Coworker and I talk and I tell her about my grand scheme to prank my supervisor. She tells stories about working at the center with the director, and how funny he can be without even realizing it. (sometimes that’s the funniest type of funny) We talk about weekend plans.

2:30 – leave Sitar and drive across the road to Target to buy a Dr.Seuss book for a student who is in the hospital. He’s realllly sick, and has been missing lessons, but wants to continue to learn. I think he’s in his late 80’s and yes, never learned how to read as a child or even as an adult until a few years ago when he was matched with a tutor! Yay for literacy at any age! [update: this student passed away a week later]

3:00 – back to work. Others head to visit the student while I stay and work on posters for recruiting new students & tutors. I’m not great with graphic art but I create what I think is a basic and decent poster for potential students. Let’s hope it gets the job done…

4:30 – supervisor heads out to get lunch (we eat at crazy hours here at the center), and I prepare the prank. Ok, so it’s not really a prank prank, but it involves Kenny G so I think it qualifies.

4:45 – sweet tooth hits! Thank goodness a tutor brought Mexican Chocolate Locopops for staff, otherwise I would have to drive to Foster’s and buy a ginormous cookie. I race back to the freezer and grab mine, savoring every sweet bite. Yum.

5:25 – supervisor comes back to the office. I’m trying not to giggle as I see him walk by, wondering when he’ll notice the Kenny G tunes coming from the corner.  (I put a Kenny G cd in a cd player in the corner of his office behind a cabinet. He used to love Kenny G back in the day and considered it his favorite jazz artist.) 

5:27 – coworker and I start g-chatting about the prank.“he’s turning it up… oh, turned it back down… I think he LIKES it!!! Come walk by and ask what he’s listening to.” -“I can’t do that without laughing!” “oh wait, here comes *student*… he’s sure to ask about the music. Nope… nothing. But his tutor is coming and he’s bound to say something hysterical about it!” -“I hear laughing. what am I missing?” “Come on over! Secret is out!”

5:33 – I walk around the corner to talk to coworker and see supervisor and tutor discussing the music. “We’ll continue this serious conversation later. I can’t believe you would listen to that!” says the tutor as he walks off. Commence laughing fits.

5:35 – when we’re done laughing and commenting on the tutors’ reaction to Kenny G, I explain that I planted the cd in his office. He commends me for my awesome pranking skills, and proceeds to turn the music back up where passerby can hear it. [Apparently he thought the music was coming from another office so he was really confused at first, then realized it was in the corner.] I bring him the Kenny G holiday cd (they aren’t mine, I promise!) and he smiles. “This is sweet love-making music” he says and then we all crack up laughing.

5:40 – as we’re standing there talking about jazz, Kenny G, and pranks, a board member walks down the hall and asks what it is we are cracking up laughing about. ‘Uh oh, am I in trouble?’ runs through my mind.  They tell him about my prank and he adds, “but Kenny G is great music to listen to when you’re depressed. Having a bad day? Turn on some Kenny G and pour a glass of wine. Problem solved.” We don’t know whether to take him seriously or not…

5:47 – I realize what time it is and that I have a lesson to teach in a few minutes and I rush back to my office. I scramble to finish writing up a lesson plan.

5:55 – my student walks in. Of course he’s early on the day I’m not ready!

6:00 – lesson officially starts.

7:33 – lesson officially ends. My student was a little stressed out and tired, but he got all the work done and I’m proud. “Stay out of trouble, Meredith” he tells me as he walks out. “Thanks, you too! See you Tuesday.”

7:39 – bag packed up and ready to go home. I say bye to supervisor and coworker. I stop at the front desk to say bye to another coworker, and we proceed to talk and talk and talk for close to an hour. Finally, when my stomach starts growling, and when she’s almost ready to lock up, I leave.

8:20 – I pull out of the parking lot. Whew, long day!


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