Thomas J. Watson, Jr., American businessman, politician, philanthropist and one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century, once stated, “I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” The second I read this quote, I immediately thought of St. Anthony Foundation (SAF) and the dozens of people whom I have met in the past two days.
I have met a few staff and volunteers that are new to the organization, but I have met even more people who have been associated with St. Anthony’s for more than five, ten and even twenty years. I am so impressed that all of these loving, dedicated people have stuck with the agency for so long. After working with various non-profits across the East Bay this past school year as a CILSA Engaged Learning Facilitator, I know how hard it is for many non-profits to keep their staff for more than a few years. Nationwide, employees are staying at their non-profit agencies for an average of 6.2 years (The NonProfit Times).
This makes me wonder—what makes the people at SAF stay? It can’t be the pay, as many of the people that I met are forced to work an additional full-time job to keep their heads afloat. Just yesterday, I met Larry, a great-grandfather in his late fifties, who has worked with St. Anthony’s for longer than the national average and is currently working another full-time job and has worked up to three jobs during his years at St. Anthony Foundation. The national average cost of an employee to their organization (including benefits) is $85, 296 (The NonProfit Times). According to St. Anthony’s financial data, which is located on their website, the 2010 annual expenditures of the organization was $18,108,755. If all of this money went to paying the salaries and benefits of its 150 employees, on average, each employee would take home $120,725 (not including benefits). However, this is certainly not the case: food and supplies needs to be paid for, cleaning supplies, electricity, building upkeep, medical supplies need to be purchased, office supplies are needed, and the list goes on.
Maybe it’s the benefits—dental is fully covered and medical and vision are partially covered; three to five weeks of vacation each year; legal, financial and guidance counseling; pension and retirement plans; financial saving and spending accounts; compensation for commuters; even the use of the SAF cabin (St. Anthony Foundation Employee Benefits).
But I am starting to think that it’s the people that make it worth it—the clients, the volunteers and the employees. The sense of comradery, teamwork and genuine respect, interest and acceptance that I have seen in this place is astounding (check out what nonprofit employees look for here). Everyone truly knows one another, they joke around, check in to see how each other is doing, and give each other advice. They want to get to know you. While healing, community, personalism, justice, and gratitude are integral parts to the mission of St. Anthony’s, it is the people of the organization that embody it, practice it, and pass it on to others (St. Anthony Foundation Mission Statement).
While I have only two months to become a member of this incredibly strong team, I hope to learn a lot from the clients, the people I work with and the organization. I hope that by taking interest in them (like they have shown me), I will grow, share, listen, contribute, build strong bonds, hear powerful stories, and make a difference. After less than a week at Saint Anthony’s, I know that I am already in awe of all of the people whom I work and serve with and am so excited to go to work every day.