In the United States, there are 540 million $1 bills printed every single day. Each dollar has a unique serial mark on it, making it its very own kind. That means every month there approximately 16.2 billion $1 dollar bills printed. In other words, that’s a lot of bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. However, with all of these printed every day, of every month, of every year, one would believe that the value of a dollar decreases just by mass production in itself; you lose the sense of what a dollar is really worth. If these past two months have taught me anything being a part of this program, it’s the value of a dollar.

When I graduated from college, I got lucky. I had a salary-paying job, benefits and even my own office on the 18th floor overlooking downtown Atlanta. I lived in a nice apartment, had nice materialistic objects, and honestly hated every moment of it. The work environment I had to deal with every day, the structure of the company, the stereotypical “corporate sell out” mindset all contributed to a repetitive, subpar life to my standards. I was not happy. I didn’t like being perfectly groomed with a matching suit every day outfit, the constant belittling, yelling and cursing on a daily basis and most of all, I didn’t connect with a single person at the entire corporate office, besides the coffee lady who gave me free coffee everyday out of pity. I had to get out. So once the opportunity presented itself to move across the country with my wife, I jumped at the chance. And the result of this change in my life has been all for the better.

Every day when I wake up, I pull out of the LEVN House and start my drive to my work site at 7:50 to Impact Foundry (Northern California’s Nonprofit Resource Center) in Sacramento. And as I’m driving, my heart leaps. There are tens of bikers on every street corner and trees all around with the sunlight hiding behind them. There are no lifted trucks with 30 inch tires, no confederate flags waving, no deer antlers on the porches of houses for decoration. Every time I go to a grocery store, I have to bring my own bags for groceries or I get charged. It’s just a different pace, and I appreciate that.

Impact Foundry has changed my entire perspective on the workforce. The respect that my supervisors show me, the genuine care that goes into the nonprofit world and the real passion I see while working with other nonprofits, really distinguishes itself from any other work experience I’ve ever had. We even hosted our annual WHAT IF Conference, where nonprofits from all over California came together to listen to some great, nationally recognized speakers, attend workshops and network all day. The entire atmosphere of the place was just uplifting and people wanted to be there. Though there were some last-minute accommodations that needed to be addressed, everything was handled in the most professional way I’ve ever seen, with a smile on every worker at Impact Foundry’s face. My co-workers were uplifting, supportive and were just actually nice human beings.

I ramble on and on about the changes I’ve seen here and the complete 180 shift at work because it just baffles me how little I really knew. I thought I understood the whole career aspect of what it meant to be successful in the workplace and what it took to succeed, but then I came out here, across the entire country, and everything is different. These nonprofit organizations are built on the very foundation of a passionate idea. They aren’t built with the focus of making a profit, but making a difference. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. The amount of conversations I have had with an executive director or a marketing expert who want to talk about their mission statement and share their nonprofit’s goals as opposed to simply talking about numbers and financial well-being is insane! Of course, these nonprofits need money and donations and sponsors, but they do it for the betterment of their organization’s aspirations, whether that be helping youth’s literacy rate in the Sacramento area, providing shelters for the homeless or even trying to help create self-sustaining produce to recycle to oxygen levels in our air. They care about their nonprofit, they care about their goals. It’s something I’ve still had to process. And yes, working at a nonprofit is difficult, the turnover rate is astounding, and it’s even advised not to start a nonprofit with the current economic conditions and competition for donors and sponsors. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, the main difference between the corporate world and nonprofit world is the passion. I believe that this next year will allow me to identify and differentiate my passions, and what I was raised to believe was successful.

The Sacramento area, per capita, has the most nonprofits in the nation. I spent the better part of my first two weeks reaching out to hundreds of them, and still there were hundreds more. With all of these nonprofits in such a close proximity, you would think that people would undervalue their worth. That’s just not the case. There are all of these nonprofits working, trying to share their passion with anyone that they possibly can with budgets that shouldn’t be able to sustain them. But they find a way. They stretch that value of a buck far more than I thought possible. And if I’ve seen and learned all this within two months, I can’t even fathom what I will learn by the end of my time here, and how far I can make $1 go.

– Nicky

Impact Foundry