Service Through an Outside Lens
Written by Lara
A Community Partner
As the executive director of a non-profit, I have worked with Bonner Leaders for 10 years. Together, we’re always learning and solving problems as a team. The Bonners I work with go through every frustration and triumph that I do. I let them know that we’re on this journey together; I’m very transparent. If I’m stressing over the details of planning a large special event fundraiser, they know it, they’re in the trenches with me. They learn that adults make mistakes, that we don’t have everything figured out, that navigating relationships and communications is a constant balancing act. One of the challenges of working with Bonners is the same as working with any new volunteer. You have to onboard them and train them well. This can mean more work at the beginning of the relationship, but like any other relationship, the more time and effort you put into it, the better it is. Once the Bonner Leaders have the “brass tacks” of the workday down, things get more interesting. Then, we can work on projects, plan and organize, develop strategies and provide programs.
Bonners get a head start in the working world. They’re learning top-notch, real-world skills that are in demand and are rarely part of the regular curriculum such as software applications, interpersonal communication skills, and team building and work. In my experience, Bonner Leaders are enthusiastic, positive, and above all courageous. They never hesitate to pitch in when there’s work of any type to be done, small stuff and big stuff.
As I matured and grew as a nonprofit administrator, I started approaching my site supervisor responsibilities with a more metacognitive approach. What did the Bonner Leaders want to learn while they were volunteering with our organization? How could I provide them with high-level practical and academic learning experiences and networking opportunities that would benefit them now and in the future? My answer was to put myself in their shoes. If I was this student making this kind of commitment beyond a normal course load of studies, how could my supervisor build my capacity? So for the last 10 years, I’ve endeavored to teach each Bonner everything I know while at the same time, finding out what their unique talents and skills are that they bring to the table.