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Interview with Nonprofit Maven Heidi Massey, Part Two

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Welcome back for the second part of my interview with Heidi Massey.
What is Nonprofit Ingenuity! and where did the idea for it come from?

Nonprofit Ingenuity! is a blog I have started writing to highlight different nonprofit organizations. I am one of the country's unemployed through job elimination. I was told a number of times that networking is key to finding a job. Job boards are highly competitive. Posted positions receive hundreds of applications. The key is to determine which companies (or in my case, nonprofit organizations) I wanted to work at and then go about networking at those organizations. I also wanted to spend some time volunteering. But I found that I, like everyone else, was overwhelmed by the number of nonprofit organizations and was very unsure where to begin. I was also amazed by extraordinary organizations I was learning about that I never even imagined existed. So I decided to create a blog that would highlight nonprofit organizations, which would have the side benefit of providing a framework and purpose to my networking. I wouldn't really be asking nonprofit professionals to help me. I would be offering to help them by promoting their organization. Additionally, I would be helping potential volunteers learn more about organizations that were not as well known as some of the larger more established nonprofits. I chose the name Nonprofit Ingenuity because I was impressed by the ingenious missions and methods of the organizations I was discovering.

Tell our readers about your own experiences in the nonprofit world.

I have been involved in the nonprofit world essentially since birth. My mother was a full time mom, but we always joked that she was busier than anyone we knew. She used to type books in braille for the blind. She volunteered for our synagogue. She did every neighborhood door-to-door fundraising drive that came her way. When I was a very little girl, she and her closest friends decided to have a garage sale and give the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. It was a big success. Over 40 years later, it is still going on as an annual and much larger event, run now by the American Cancer Society. My mother was a grass roots organizer before I even knew what that was!

I worked at my synagogue throughout my college years. When I decided I did not want to use my teaching degree, I went to Brandeis University to get a Master's Degree in Jewish Communal Service*. This degree trained me to work in Jewish nonprofit organizations. Much of what I learned was relevant to working in any nonprofit organization. Since graduation, I have worked at the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Center, and a synagogue. As a Youth Director, I worked with youth and teens to create innovative programs in which participants learned about and got involved with nonprofit organizations. Over the past few years, I have developed a deep interest in issues related to youth and young adults in low-income communities. I have focused my job search primarily on organizations that deal with breaking the cycle of poverty and empowerment of those in low-income communities. I am also very interested in environmental issues and issues related to diversity.

I have tried to replicate my own childhood experiences by participating in volunteer opportunities with my three children. When they were in kindergarten, they began to receive an allowance, a portion of which was always set aside for donation. When something came up that we wanted to support, we would either donate money or purchase items to donate. We have also worked at soup kitchens, helped deliver holiday meals, and adopted pets from shelters, among other types of volunteering. Additionally, we have all volunteered for a number of political campaigns. We are always looking for opportunities to get involved.

Your mom sounds amazing. it's clear that this apple didn't fall far from the tree. I'm sure she's thrilled that her strong commitment to community and volunteerism was passed on to you and her grandchildren. That must be gratifying for her.

Thank you. Unfortunately, my mom passed away from lung cancer when I was 24. However, I do know that she would enthusiastically join my dad who supports what I have done and what I am now doing. I believe they taught me from a very young age that if I wanted to change the world, then I would be able to get out there and do it. Even though I grew up in the 1960s, they didn't believe in limiting me as a girl. And they believed that, regardless of a person's skin color or background, we were all essentially just people. That was pretty progressive for the 1960s. So it is completely ingrained in me from my earliest years...just like prejudice is, in people with those sorts of views.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. How sad that your children weren't able to know her. I'm sure you've told them lots of great stories about her, and her legacy lives on in their own interests and concerns.

They have definitely heard stories about her; they know a lot! She would have loved them, and you can be sure none of my kids ever considered smoking!

Good luck in your job search. I think you would be quite an asset to any organization lucky enough to snatch you up. Thank you for speaking with me, Heidi. Jessica was absolutely right!
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*Heidi and I attended the same graduate program at Brandeis, six years apart. I didn't know this until she mentioned her schooling during the interview. More, in the small world department: She worked for many years for my friend Marshall, whom I met at Brandeis in that same program, over thirty years ago.

Part one of my interview with Heidi

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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