Thursday, July 31, 2008

[August] is just a day away...

Tomorrow is August 1st. It's slightly daunting. I really need to acquire new employment so I can switch right over and not have any downtime. I had a first interview with the NH Chapter of the March Of Dimes to be a community director (one of two) this past Monday. I think it went well but I'm not sure if I'd be excited enough to commit to the amount of development work they need. As the community director I would be in charge of specific events in certain portions of the state. It would be my duty to recruit event chairs and committees to do the work acquiring all the necessary supplies and spaces for the events and to gather up the people who would raise the money for the event. Meanwhile, I'd be going to businesses and corporations with specific proposals attempting to get funds to pay for the events . The director said that I would be flown out to regional conferences for mandatory trainings on the events, which could clearly be awesome, but I wonder if I would crack under some sort of pressure. However, the position could be quite simple. Just get out there, talk to people, build relationships, have great events. Though "Bikers for Babies" makes me laugh every time I say it.

The Manchester 21st CCLC, the program with which I currently work, has managed to get a position cleared that is basically what I do now. A portion of me would really hate to see all the work I've put into getting sustainability subcommittees together, sitting on community committees, and attempting to build general capacity lose any momentum I may have helped create. I'm certainly applying for the position but it could potentially, like the program as a whole, exist for only one year unless the program is successful in acquiring the 65% grant from the DOE.

Aside from those two options I don't have much else. I've applied for a Federal position in Manchester through (VISTA grants you non-competitive eligibility for 1 year after successful completion of your one year of service), and sent out my resume to a couple other places but so far... I'm just finishing the sustainability plan for the program.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Drawing to a close...

The afterschool program is done for this (fiscal) year. Summer programming starts July 7th and goes to August 1st but that's on the next fiscal calendar. Site Coordinators aren't working and here I am sitting in my cubicle. My cube, by the way, has steadily been filled with more and more stuff throughout the year. When I started I had a desk (that I had to build) a chair, a laptop and a phone. Now I have a 4 drawer, professional filing cabinet, a white board on an easel, a second chair, a storage cabinet, 2 broken printers, a little zen camping thing (like those zen gardens except more NH forest based) and a little 2 drawer filing cabinet that doesn't have a top. Oh, I also have the "Community Relations Office" sign David Scannell used to have, but never used. It's odd that just when you actually have all the makings of a real office/cubicle/work space you can only think about what your next one will look like.

2 months and 5 days from now I will no longer be an A*VISTA member. I'll have to be something else. What that is, I have no idea. I realized, this morning, that my year of service has given me a strong basis of experience in everything administrator related except for HR and Budgeting. However, I'm 22 and my degree is in music performance and philosophy. I'd be a more likely candidate as an Administrative Assistant than as an Administrator. I should probably put the feelers out for teaching clarinet wherever I can.

My problem - I may have waited too long to find a good position that is something I would WANT to do rather than simply can do. Right now I'm also up against all of the 2008 graduates desperately trying to find a job and move out. My best bet would have been to try and find something once the new year started, or at least before all the spring breaks. However, I think the real issue is I'm not sure what I really want to do. My experience as a VISTA have showed me a lot but due to my needing to do so much nothing has really jumped out as me as "Hey! I wanna do that!" I did just write an article for Parenting NH and I am currently writing a multi-year sustainability plan for the program but I'm not sure how to start down that road. I already write a column for the American Record Guide and I love reviewing the newest CDs but maybe that means I should be moving back towards grad school.

In less rambling matters, PlusTime NH is currently having a promotional video created for it by Heartwood Media in Manchester, NH. The video will pretty much be used for recruitment/youtube kind of stuff. I was one of the people they wanted interviewed and I really feel that the media company went about things the wrong way. If the intention is going to be a youtube video you have to know about that scene. I asked them, jokingly, if they had ever seen youtube content and one responded with "no, I only watch animal videos." Everyone who was interviewed was standing up, that creates a bit on an uncomfortable situation. The real issue here was that they had called all the people to be interviewed and asked us questions. I could hear typing happening as I talked. I imagined that I would show up and they would have taken the things I said and narrowed down what they wanted to fit a certain storyboard they had envisioned... no such luck here. I was asked a bunch of questions again and, since my dad just told me that I owed him $830 to get my car fixed I wasn't in the best of moods. I had also just realized that my family, and probably most of my friends, had absolutely no idea what kinds of stuff I had been doing for the past 8 months.

If you are ever going to make a video, map it out. Pre-screen people and take that info and tell them to repeat certain things when you film. Remember your audience and tailor it to them. Make sure people are comfortable when they talk. Have familiar people talk to them while filming. Lastly, The Flip Ultra retails for less than $180 and is outstanding for creating the next viral video. Point, record, flip out the usb plug, download to your computer, upload to YouTube. BAM, video diary. The possibilities are many if the nonprofit world can start entertaining the ideal of using the internet to its advantage.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The weekends need to evolve...

and evolve so thoroughly that they completely over take the work week. Sitting in my cubicle for more hours than I care to admit every day has several ramifications. The least of which being that I get tired from just plain sitting and wheeling around. On a more serious note, I don't really talk to anybody... at all. So if someone calls me or a coworker says "hello" I tend to respond in a very small voice. People don't always hear this voice produced by prolonged periods of silence so I've actually had several coworkers come up to me asking if they had done anything wrong. If my friends or my family call me at work they always ask if I am hiding or if I just woke up. I reply that no, I'm not sleeping and that I'm just at work doing work stuff. Thankfully, only 1 of the 3 fluorescent bulbs above me works so I don't feel as oppressed as I would were they all to be functioning. A maintenance working came in one day and asked me if I wanted them replaced. I responded abruptly with "oh hell no, man. but thanks" and he chuckled to himself, picked up his ladder, and wandered to the next bulbs.

Some days I think that working is really just the best way to keep VISTA members from spending money they don't have. If you have to work full-time then there's about 40 hours (not including any travel, prep, work you take home, events, etc) where you can't really spend money - except possibly for lunch.

I've taken up running as a hobby and, once I purchased some shoes for $72 I haven't had to spend any more besides registration fees for 5k races. However, a 5k race still gets you some bottled water, maybe some yogurt or fruit, most likely a shirt, and a chance to get out there with a bunch of other people. My first 5k was on the last Sunday in April and I ran that in 32:14. Certainly not a blistering pace but, considering it was the first time I ever ran an entire 5k without walking, I felt really good about it. May 21st is the "Rock'n Race" in Concord and I've heard that it's the largest sanctioned 5k race in the Northeast. I'm pretty excited. Apparently there are live bands just about every quarter mile along the course or something.

The $50 registration fee I spent on joining the kickball league in manchester, the NHSSC, has been well spent also. Two games down and our team is 0-2 having scored a total of 1 run. That run was me and I'm currently 3 for 3 at the plate. Yet, while we may have lost on the field, we certainly win in the bar where domestic drafts flow for $1.50 and other people on the team always seem to buy the rounds. If only I could find a cheap baseball glove now so that I could carry around 2 with me at all times then I would just be completely ready for the summer. My trunk already contains a whiffle ball and whiffle ball bat, a 4square/kickball, a (deflated) football, and 3 baseballs. Were I to find a heavy frisbee my car could be the supply closet for a recreational afterschool program.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's not like plopping a fish into a nice, clean bowl...

It's more like tossing a tiny fish into a mired swamp. When people talk about bringing issues to the fore of key stakeholders and the general public they tend to address the situation as if the issue, a nice goldfish, or beta since they are still all the rage right now, can be dropped directly into the mind, the clean bowl, of the populace as if there is nothing already there. In reality, a person's mind is a quagmire of issues and responsibilities and being ignorant of that fact will do little to help you. Marketing is key - you have a target audience so how do you best contact them? Well, you have to know what other things they might like besides your issue/cause/whatever and use those things as some sort of leverage if your initiative is very new or little known.

In the afterschool realm it isn't quite as hard. People can be parents. Parents have kids and tend to care about them. Parents have to work so their kids can eat and have clothes and whatnot. Kids might not have anything productive or constructive to do after school. The problem is there and if your afterschool program has a good relationship (best option is clearly to be in the school) with the school and school district then it isn't hard to get parents to put the kids in the program.

However, what about the important people who aren't parents? Or who used to have school-age children and might want to get involved? What about the business community? All these potential stakeholders probably, especially in the Northeast of the United States, do some sort of volunteering, sponsorship, donating, etc. for at least one organization or cause. That does not mean, however, that people are maxed out at one cause. Gathering support is not about finding the Monopoly guy and asking him to give you enough money to be sustainable. It's about being the fish in the swamp that doesn't get lost amongst the reeds and using the momentum you gain to build relationships. These relationships can turn into life-long volunteers, donors, suppliers of in-kind goods, and general visibility expanders.

Turning to a highly specific example, my program, the 21st CCLC is part of the Manchester School District. Currently, budget season is upon us and things are especially brutal this year. With the downturn in the economy caused by the sub-prime mortgage crunch and the extreme weakness of the dollar causing higher prices for gas and food added to the inflated revenue expectations and one of the snowiest winters in history, the City of Manchester is in dire straights. Either everybody needs to cut everything under the sun or taxes will go up... a lot (by the way, the state of NH has also been adversely affected by these things and is also in the hole monetarily). Last night over 2,000 people went to Memorial High School for a chance to appear before the Board of Mayor and Alderman and be heard. All talk was about the school district's budget. Currently set at $147 million for this year, the Board of School Committee requested a proposed $153 million for next year. The Mayor returned with a budget of $140 million which, along with the rest of the city, would result in the absence of a tax increase. Of course, cutting $7 million dollars is a lot so, obviously, teachers fear for their jobs. The Mayor has repeated said that if administration is trimmed the school district should be able to figure it out but the number of people who work in the administrative offices where I reside is nowhere near enough for that to happen.

Now, with people wondering if athletics and arts&music will be disappearing from classrooms, and it is a big possibility that happens much more, nationally, than anyone would care to admit, and how many, it isn't a matter of 'if', teachers will be pink slipped, how the HELL am I supposed to get support for an afterschool program????

Monday, April 14, 2008

VISTA and fun are not mutually exclusive...

I know there are VISTAs out there who sit at home all day and night, in the dark, shivering, eating only ramen noodles in front of a candle by which they read. This is entirely unnecessary. Just because you survive on a living stipend doesn't mean you have to go without heat, electricity, or food that may actually nourish you. More importantly, there's no need to sit around doing nothing all the time bemoaning how you can't ever have any fun. Effective fiscal management, combined with some wheelin' and dealin' maybe, can create a situation where you can go out and do things and not absolutely hemorrhage funds.

Case in point - this coming Friday is the party for one of my oldest friends. Taner is turning 23 and, since we rarely get to see him since he's pursuing a doctorate of pharmacology, we usually go all out we usually go all out for his birthday. They key here is the sheer number of people involved. We found a band made out of guys we know who will play for free. I found a company that makes ice luges for a mere $35. Finally, a half keg is setting us back, not counting the deposit, about $130. Now, if I had to pay for all this stuff by myself... it would be the only thing I could do all month (but that would probably be worth it). However, charge $5 for admission and I'm pretty sure I can cover any expenses now... except for maybe the 6-foot party sub.

In other situations, it's all about managing... everything. You don't want to spend more than your allotment of food stamps for food so you need to manage what you eat. Exercise is a great, low cost way to not only help make your food go farther, but also give you something to do. I used google maps to figure out a loop that's 3.2 miles which exits where I live by turning right and eventually comes all the way around to me entering where I live by turning right. Other low cost fun could include getting to know your local high school or AAA sports instead of shelling out the mondo bucks for, in my case, the Red Sox or the Celtics or the Patriots. I'm attending a Fisher Cats game tomorrow night, minor league Baseball team for... somebody, for a mere 10 bucks. In May I'll be attending an arena football game for a discounted price.

On the more artsy side, the Currier Gallery of Art just reopened and, in order to have a really big grand opening, offered free admission to everybody the first week. Lots of towns organize gallery nights as the weather gets nicer where a number of small galleries will be open to the public in efforts to get people walking the downtown strip and such. Movies can get pricey if you like to go to those but your local library probably shows at least a couple movies every week for free. Obviously, matinées are the best bang for your buck at the local cineplex - however, the theater can also be your best friend. You can watch sporting events on certain nights on the giant screen with a bunch of your friends. At certain theaters you can even watch the Metropolitan Opera or the San Francisco Opera perform for much less than the price of admission to a traveling troupe going through your town.

Recently I joined the NH Sports and Social Club or... whatever it's called. I'm on a team to play kickball with a bunch of my friends. Basically, we get shirts and we go hang out Thursday nights and play kickball with other teams. Afterwards, we go to Murphy's Taproom and drinks are only like $1.50 or something. It may have cost me $50 to join - but I get a shirt and that's basically a wearable coupon for cheap drinks from this Thursday to the end of June so that seemed like a sound investment to me.