We asked the apprentices in nonprofit management to tell us more about themselves, their work, and their future plans. Here are one apprentice’s reflections on what the program has been like so far.
What attracted you to the apprentice program?
As a soon-to-be-graduating senior, I was looking for a job that would enable me to develop critical career skills, create connections with professionals in the nonprofit sector and, most importantly, become more engaged in Grinnell outside of the College. The apprenticeship program combined all three of these desires into one great program.
What background or skills do you bring to the program?
The majority of my summer and study-abroad internships were in the nonprofit sector. My previous experience with a literacy-focused nonprofit in Washington, D.C. and a rural development nongovernmental organization focused on education in India instilled in me great passion for promoting the power of education and social sector organizations. With these groups, I spent a lot time writing program proposals and grant report updates, doing research and communicating with volunteers. I have been able to use and build upon all of these skills in the apprenticeship program.
What about the Ahrens Foundation’s mission inspires you?
Leave It Better Than You Found It! The mission speaks for itself. Imagine if everyone left things better than they found them. The world would be a better place for everyone.
What drew you to the Ahrens Foundation?
I was drawn to the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation because of their focus on parks and recreation, health and education. All of these focus areas are related to my background and my personal interests. I was also really impressed by the professional atmosphere and the staff of the Ahrens Foundation and partner organizations in the office.
What kinds of projects do you do?
My primary long-term project for the year is collaborating with the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation on creating and implementing a Grinnell-wide community survey to better understand the strengths and concerns of our community. Thus far in the project, I have spent the majority of my time creating a community group toolkit. The toolkit is a way for any community member to give voice to their opinions on the strengths and concerns of Grinnell. We will distribute the toolkit to community groups and make it available for anyone to pick up in the Drake Library. With the feedback we collect from the toolkit, we will create a community survey, which will be distributed in late spring or early summer. What we learn from the community survey will help provide direction to a variety of community groups, business and nonprofit leaders to make Grinnell an even better place to live.
Another significant aspect of my apprenticeship is doing research for a variety of projects for the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation and the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation. My recent research projects include: how to conduct community surveys, the Blue Zones Project, and rental spaces available in Grinnell.
Currently, I am working on compiling and analyzing the information from a recent time study of the foundation offices staff. With so many partners and collaborating organizations, we aim to figure out exactly what the foundation office staff are doing and for how long to better improve the efficiency and efficacy of our office.
What kind of skills have you been learning?
Through the apprenticeship program, I have grown as a writer — writing press releases, informational toolkits for community members, and professional emails. I have learned how to write in accessible and persuasive styles to best convey the message and work of the Ahrens Foundation and partner organizations. Even basic skills, like my knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel, have improved dramatically through creating the community group toolkit and managing spreadsheets related to my research and our time study. While these skills are not the most glamorous, they are critical for any future career. I might even claim I can make the most beautiful spreadsheets and time lines in the office now!
The Impact Her Apprenticeship Has Had on Her
How has having a close working relationship with your director impacted you and your future education plans?
Working so closely with Julie Gosselink has given me great perspective into the day-to-day work of a nonprofit director. Julie has really impressed me with her commitment to taking time to discuss her job with me and address any questions that I have. I have learned a lot from her about the challenges of effective nonprofit collaboration, marketing and time management.
Working with Julie Gosselink as well as Nicole Brua-Behrens and the staff of the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and Imagine Grinnell has been a wonderful experience. I have learned a lot from them, listening to their stories of how they came to be in their current positions. I’ve learned that often the path to the nonprofit sector is not linear, but that skills gained from the private and public sectors are critical in the nonprofit sector as well.
How has the apprenticeship program changed your perception of Grinnell? Nonprofit work? Your future?
Before joining the Ahrens team, I was really unaware of how vibrant and successful the Grinnell nonprofit sector is. The collaboration between different organizations in town is inspiring. The Ahrens’ Community Support Services Program enables community nonprofits to join forces, build capacity, optimize back-office support operations and create efficiencies through shared staff and administrative functions. The Ahrens’ Community Support Services Program provides a unique model of how small organizations can work together to achieve even greater impact. The apprenticeship program has further committed me to working in the nonprofit sector. The ability to work with dedicated individuals, who are really making positive impacts in the world, is a real privilege.
Working with the Ahrens Foundation has given me new potential to make a positive difference in the community of Grinnell. I have fostered many new relationships with community leaders and become more committed to ensuring the growing vitality of Grinnell as a place to live, work and go to college. I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling way to contribute to the town of Grinnell, which has enabled me to grow so much over the last four years.