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Putting out the fire(s)

June 6, 2018

Julia Palencia: Coordinator, Individual Giving

Every single day, direct service providers, grant writers, chief strategy officers, marketing teams, and everyone in between, walk into office buildings, warehouses, garages (and any other space with an affordable lease) to try and put out the fires of poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and addiction.

A friend of mine recently used the analogy of passing buckets filled with water from a river to put out a fire to describe the intricacies of a nonprofit. I loved the analogy. Because it encompasses one of the hardest aspects of nonprofit work.

Toeing a line of serving a community, while providing customer service to donors. It is a hard line to toe, knowing how much time, energy, and internal resources to give to one group over the other. Striking a balance is difficult, fascinating, and vital to a nonprofit’s survival.

Inevitably, we realize we need everyone from the river, to the fire, to do our work. It takes all of us.

We need direct service providers standing at the fire, trying as hard as they can to pour the water over the flames. It is a lesson in constant self-care, trauma-informed approaches, and good support from the entire organization to not get burned.

There is also a need to have people passing buckets down a line to one another. The grant writers finding ways to keep the buckets consistently filled, the marketing team making sure those in the river understand the intensity of the fire, chief strategy officers making sure the line of people passing buckets is as effective as possible.

We also need people to stand in the river and fill buckets of water. We’d never be able to put a fire out without each person along the row, but we would never have those people, a direction, a focus, a solution to the climbing flames, without those who fill the buckets.

Each role is integral, and each role supports one another. Even when those in the river have never even seen the flames.