Type of Organization: Social change Age: 24 Years in business: three Education: BA, political science Hours per week: 40 to 70 Size of organization: 11 staff, 300 volunteers Annual salary: $33,000 What does a community organizer do? We identify leaders from different institutions, identify what changes they would like to see made in their com- munity, and help facilitate a way for those leaders to make the changes. Within my organization, I focus on education. I go to school meetings and meet with par- ents who we think would be good community leaders, as well as teachers and school administrators who are interested in working for change. Can you give me an example of a successful project? Sure. A few years ago a large number of local par- ents said they were concerned about overcrowding in schools. Our goal is to always strategize a tangible solu- tion. So we organized some key leaders—parents and teachers—and met with the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. In that meeting, parents gave testimonies and made demands about why the area needed more and newer schools. We just finished up the first year in a new building that came to be as a result of that activism. What are some drawbacks of what you do? Sometimes the hours are pretty grueling. But that only starts to bother you when you’re tasked with stuff like writing a grant or other administrative duties that are not fun and require a lot of time. In the middle of a campaign, when people are really excited and there’s lots of energy, you don’t mind long hours because you feel like what you’re doing is more than a job. Does the low salary ever get you down? It hasn’t gotten me down because I’m younger and able to do that. If I stick to it, there’ll be the possibility for promotions, and lots of executive directors make high salaries. What is the next career step for you? The next logical position would be lead organizer at this or another organization. As I gain more experience and get better at what I do, I might feel comfortable being an executive director. But I’m not sure that will be for me—executive directors work even more hours, and their duties are even more administrative. What kind of person excels at this kind of work? You can be trained on all aspects of organizing, but a lot of things really need to be part of your personality. You need to feel comfortable talking with people one- on-one, and really make people feel comfortable around you. You also need good instincts. You can develop that over time, but you need to be able to think outside the box—figure out how to strategize and who will be good leaders for their communities. You also have to be pretty tough. There can be lots of tension between lead- INSIDER SCOOP “Community organizing is a concrete way to bring about systemic social change. I don’t know of any other job that gives people the opportunity to do that.” TIP > As nonprofits boost their digital presence, tech-savvy employees are in demand. This includes those with tech skills as well as social media mavens. If you have a cause, and digital
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- Fall '14
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