By Katelyn Dickerson, museum coordinator
If you have worked in a non-profit organization yourself or know someone who has, it is probably not a shock that non-profit employees wear many hats. They do just about everything. For those of you who are not as familiar with the non-profit sector, it may be surprising for you to learn that a non-profit employee is truly the modern Renaissance man (or woman). Non-profit employees are, by and large, in the field because they are passionate about their job; money and ease are not usually contributing factors. More often than not, non-profit employees care deeply for their organization which is why they are willing to put in the time, effort, and energy to wear their many hats.
Now, a passion for a subject does not always equate a background in said subject. For example, some of the employee backgrounds at the ABEF are what you would expect: biology; others include journalism, history, political science, and anthropology. This diverse set of backgrounds mean that staff members are self-driven and motivated individuals who have taken it upon themselves to direct their own learning on subjects such as bald eagles, raptors, natural history, Alaskan ecology, education, and so much more. This diversity is not a limitation or hindrance, but an asset.
Diversity of background is an asset for non-profit employees because a day’s work is just as, if not more, diverse. By this I mean that a non-profit employee’s given job description is just the tip of the iceberg. We must be ready and willing to do just about anything.
The past few weeks at the Foundation have been the typical, peak summer tourism season, busy. We are definitely not complaining about this; the busy summer months are crucial to our institutional well-being throughout the entire year. Additionally, the throngs of people offer so many opportunities for teaching moments and personal interactions with visitors, our bread and butter. We are also experiencing the end of summer chaos of interns leaving and arriving. Here’s a look at an actual day of mine (August 11th to be precise).
August 11th – A “Normal” Day
8:30 – arrive at work, initiate coffee sequence
8:31 – coordinate with co-workers about the intricacies of the day
8:37 – give and receive sass to appropriate interns at the morning check-in
8:49 – write out a to-do list for the day (one of these eleven tasks will be accomplished by the end of the day
8:58 – set out to do a task, notice a full donation box, realize you need to do a fundraiser update
9:06 – count out $1,033 in small bills and coins from said donation box
9:15 – get into a conversation with the director about improving fundraiser t-shirt sales
9:22 – maintenance specialist arrives, singing of course, needs direction to apply film to windows in the eagle aviary
9:31 – Veterinarian and TV personality, Dr. Michelle Oakley arrives and is ready to do birds check-ups and x-rays
9:40 – assist interns with bringing in resident raptors for their check-ups, this includes dodging talons and beaks in a cool, calm, and collected manner
10:01 – do my best soccer mom impression and get tons of photos and videos of interns handling birds, for both them and our social media
10:32 – write and post all of the day’s social media, hoping the bounds of the Ethernet find you funny and pandering with trendy hashtags
10:46 – between bringing in birds, scoot outside to complete construction on a display stand for one of the interns’ education projects, aka fun time with power tools
11:04 – informed by coworker that the film on the windows will not work, develop a backup plan before the eagles are put back in their enclosure
11:05 – run to your project room and measure out windows and sheets of stray paper
11:17 – nab a stray intern, grab really big ladder, slowly and awkwardly maneuver it into the eagle aviary
11:31 – perform incredible acts of acrobatics on a twenty foot ladder, because the chosen intern is (understandably) afraid of heights
12:20 – scurry out of the aviary right before the eagles are released
12:45 – back to the desk to respond to emails and social media
12:57 – walk past an interactive touch table and notice that it could use an extra cleaning, whip out the cloths and disinfectants
1:04 – call Juneau artist regarding the creation of a traditional Chilkat blanket for an exhibit opening in spring of 2018
1:05 – realize how cool this artist is and how bomb this exhibit is going to be
1:38 – inform the director that the grant project for the Chilkat blanket is a go for next year
1:39 – perform the ritualistic “happy dance”
1:55 – check in with interns on their education project process and see what can be done to help
1:57 – teach a InDesign 101 course for interns
2:14 – Dylan, the small cavity-dwelling screech owl, is out and ready to work, do a short training session with him
2:22 – write notes about the training session, thoughtfully named: bird notes
2:36 – remember to eat lunch while having an impromptu staff meeting about an upcoming festival which needs to be planned
2:57 – representatives from a local tour company arrive to discuss plans for next year’s tour schedule, we grapple with the reality that we are almost done with this tourism season
3:49 – part ways with the tour reps and immediately send follow-up emails
4:02 – Dylan is back out, do another training session, narrowly avoid getting crapped on by a very small bird, who resembles a cranky old man
4:17 – write more bird notes
4:18 – question where the day went with co-workers, along with general existence
4:28 – generous community member brings in a large painting of regional birds wishing to donate it to the museum
4:30 – explain the intricacies of museum collections and donations, repeat sincere appreciation, accept the piece on open terms, possible festival auction item?
4:52 – have a discussion with coworker about using a local’s flesh-eating beetles to clean an otter body in order to get the bones to articulate the skeleton
4:57 – evening check-in with the interns, release them from their bonds
5:04 – turn off the lights, lock the doors, leave the building, yet keep thinking about the job, always.
It is a bizarre and wondrous thing, working at a non-profit. My day never goes as planned, I do things I would have never imagined I would, and I find it next to impossible to leave work at work. I have a lot of fun at my job and I care deeply for my organization. This is both a blessing and a curse which I believe all non-profit employees must balance and appreciate. Our days may be crazy, our checklists may never be complete, and our lives may revolve around our jobs, but we love what we do, and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have it any other way.