I found out today that I have become a persona non-grata at an organization where I've donated most of my time and spare money for the past 16 years. It hurt…it hurts…it sucks. I won't go into many of the details, but instead will focus on the feelings.
Maybe you have had this happen to you.
When you spend all of your other than work energy trying to make positive change for people and "pay it forward," you frequently gain significant personal rewards. I know that helping other people through donations and through my time and energy volunteering is personally fulfilling and rewarding. I love connecting people with each other for possible jobs or personal benefit. I find great joy in knowing that my connections can help someone so much in their life.
It's funny how one person can change all of that. One person, whether they come on staff at a non-profit, or join the board, can completely alter the successful execution of that charities' mission.
I know that something similar has happened to other people close to me recently. In more than one nonprofit, the staff or board have changed. For me (and the un-named people close to me), we've tried to keep giving our opinions and spending our time helping said nonprofits in spite of the now not so positive feeling we are getting from this volunteer work.
I like to feel good about volunteering. I like to feel good about donating. I don't just do it because a charity needs money. If that were the case, I'd be supporting the poorest charities in the world, not those whose mission I identify with the most. I do it because it makes me feel good about a charity.
Now it may be that the new direction and new personalities are somehow moving the charity forward in a positive direction, but one that is contrary to the direction I support. I'm not admitting that I am always correct. I'm not seeing or feeling that in this case. Instead, I'm being selectively singled out to no longer volunteer because there are people who don't like my personality or my strong opinions. I know this is only temporary until one person leaves.
To paint you a picture of who I am….I am a person who always speaks my mind. I rarely let politics or social graces stand in the way of me voicing my opinion. I'm also a person who "puts my money where my mouth is" in that I support financially things for which I am advocating. If you want someone who will give you the truth without sugar coating, that is me. If you want someone to give you an up front and honest opinion, that is me. Sometimes what I say and what I do hurts. I realize that. I do what I believe is right. Also, if you want someone who will work very hard and dedicate hours upon hours of his time to support your cause and get others to support it too, that is who I am.
What is right for me now, is to step away. There are plenty of nonprofits that value someone who is plain spoken, upfront, and generous with their time, connections and energy. I will find one of them to support with my heart, and my mind.
UPDATE: I've had many people reach out to me because this blog post sounds like I'm devastated. I'm not. I'm just talking through the situation. I've still got plenty of passion to share with plenty of charities. I still love this particular charity and many of the people there. I'm just taking a break.