At NPQ, respect for our readers’ work, intelligence, and insight is core to all we do. And, indeed, research says that the nonprofit workforce is motivated differently than the other two sectors. So, we thought we would go out and ask them. The result is this special online series that will run every workday for the next month, illuminating what motivates each of twenty profiled workers.

We think much of what they say will resonate with you, but this is also who NPQ serves each day. They are why our work is so important, and NPQ can’t exist without your contributions.

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Why NPQ serves Selena proudly…

I started taking classes at 4 at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Around 12, I was in a moody middle school phase and I didn’t want to do any of the activities, so my mom would make me walk my little sister to and from hers. One day, I was sitting in the lobby, looking kind of bored or agitated, and the receptionist said, “Hey, I could use your help. Can you help me out?” And, you know, it kind of caught me off guard and I thought, oh, okay, well, sure. And what I realize in retrospect is she asked me for my help so that she could help me. It was the cascading mentorship model and it worked. She gave me responsibility and I took it. I kept coming back and getting more and more responsibility, and it was just uplifting and empowering. That along with all of the support I received from mentors like her and EOYDC’s CEO, Regina Jackson, is what got me on that route and motivated me to keep going.

One of the things that motivates me to work with young people is recognizing just how vulnerable young people often are. They’re often put in situations where they are expected to be—or are only able to be—passive recipients of knowledge or services, and that is not productive. It does not make them strong and able to meet what’s to come.

When it comes to working with young people, I feel like I have a gift—a gift that’s been nurtured through my mentors and experiences. Not everyone is suited to, or attracted to, or knows how to work with young people. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to have this gift, I just feel compelled to use it—if that makes sense.

But I do think that nonprofit work requires agility, and that means you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing and comfortable and even excited about that?” Because for people like me, that’s exciting; every day is different and I want that. But, if you’re the kind of person who really likes routine and you don’t ever want to have to step out of your comfort zone, it’s probably not going to be for you. The nonprofit world is “the world of many hats!”

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Why Selena cares about NPQ…

Developing research-based insights and implementing them within our organization is hugely important. Nonprofit Quarterly helps give nonprofits, especially local nonprofits, insight into what’s going on across the country and beyond our little world. I appreciate and value that access and the ability to learn from other practitioners through a consolidated channel. It’s flexible, so it is especially critical for relatively small, local organizations, like the one that I work with, where we don’t have a huge national entity that is developing training for us.