Charlotte Zhang: Discovering My Home with SVCN
My first couple weeks at the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits (SVCN) were really heartening. I felt comfortable even before my first day when I met my manager down at Japantown’s JT Express for a Friday lunch appointment and we talked about our college experiences and how exciting the non-profit space was. She was an activist just like her grandma and had brought in her love for communications and theater into her work.I was inspired by how she could take all of her skills and bring them into various facets of her life to accomplish what she was passionate about. In fact, I was stunned by how much everyone at SVCN had 5-D personalities; everyone had some greater cause or issue they cared about and were working for with all of their heart. They were all incredibly sharp yet kind people with so many skills (the CEO could make wigs!) and I was happy that I had been given the opportunity to know them and learn from their experiences.
As someone who hasn’t seen much of any non-profit work aside from your occasional Red Cross blood drive, being immersed in what SVCN does as a supporting structure for all of Silicon Valley’s nonprofits has demonstrated to me how essential this sector is for our local communities. With every policy newsletter that was released, I saw so many important discussions that the city was having about our upcoming elections or issues of mental health, housing affordability, racial justice, and more. I also became excited about my work when I saw just how many nonprofits rely on our newsletters and website for information on non-profit specific news. Thousands of organizations open our newsletters weekly to look at the next policy item that might affect them or the next community fundraiser they should avoid schedule conflicts with or the next non-profit training session that they can attend. SVCN even has a job board for non-profits to post any positions they have open in one place, making our organization a centralized hub for anything non-profit.
No event was our position as the sticky glue that holds the local non-profit community together more apparent than at our annual fundraiser, Be Our Guest. Among the hundreds of people who came to the yearly pumpkin auction, more than 40 non-profit organizations attended with the hope and joy of winning a pumpkin award and auctioning off their own pumpkin for our organization’s funds. Intricate pumpkins with flowers or motor-controlled bike chain installations were carried into our ballpark venue, some with political statements about mass incarcerations or womens’ rights, some with the goofy allusion to the Lorax for the pandemic. From local county supervisors to the leaders of the Housing Authority office, everyone was there to celebrate important work that they had done for the community and to collectively recognize the milestones that other organizations had achieved. Standing among the bustle of people excitedly meeting each other again for the first time in three years and taking pictures with our pumpkins or bringing home our candy, my heart swelled at seeing everyone shed their masks of formality and professionalism to embrace a spirit of celebration and child-like whimsy over our normally somber work.
Now that I have taken in so much about the non-profit space, I feel more ready to cater to this new audience and to deliver the information they need most. I have been studying non-profit websites to understand what kind of information and functionality they have to better guide SVCN’s own journey towards building a new website. After reading the newsletters every week, I am also about to become best friends with Mail Chimp to craft some of the newsletter releases on events and job board updates. I also have gotten to meet a lot of the others at SVCN and feel encouragement from their passion for all of the work they do. Throughout it all, I feel excited about all of the things I am learning about myself, my own skills, the issues I care about, the applications of my degree, and about the local community that I call home.