Why I Love My Nonprofit Job

Why I Love My Nonprofit Job

Why I Love My Nonprofit Job: Mariah Tanner, United Way Santa Cruz County

By Teresa Ruiz Decker

In the Thriving Nonprofits series called Why I Love My Nonprofit Job, we’re looking at work culture and how we can empower our local nonprofits to create better places to work, resulting in greater success for the organization overall. First up: Mariah Tanner. When I met Mariah at the Santa Cruz MarComm for Nonprofits Meet Up, I knew instantly she was someone I wanted to talk with more. Mariah, a Santa Cruz native, exudes a friendly, high-energy spirit that is contagious. She is the marketing coordinator at United Way of Santa Cruz County, a role she loves and is very, very good at.

After spending an afternoon with Mariah at her home in Seabright, I am still thoroughly impressed and inspired by her bottomless energy. At one point I asked why she loved her nonprofit work so much, her response was instinctive, “I feel so honored to give back to a place I call home, a place that gave me junior guards, girl scouts, swim team, a first job, and my college education – a place that so freely gave to me as I was growing up,” Mariah said. Her love for her hometown and for building a stronger community is genuine.

In our conversation, Mariah pointed to the thing that can give nonprofits a competitive edge when recruiting. She spoke about creating healthy and fun communities for employees at nonprofit organizations. United Way of SCC does this in many ways including allowing employees creative freedom, Friday yoga in the conference room, yoga balls to sit on, and walking meetings.


Take a look at the ideas I gathered from my interview and give them a try!

Walking Interviews

If your meeting doesn’t require a lot of note taking or intense conversations, take it outside. The sunshine and fresh air will do you good. You can always finish up at your desk to take notes. I’ve tried this a few times and people really like it!

Start a Class Taught by a Colleague

This is a great one to try during some of those slower months. You can organize a class based on a co-workers expertise and take turns hosting. At United Way of SCC, Mariah’s co-worker is also a yoga instructor so those lucky employees are finding their Zen each Friday at work. Create any class activity you like just make it informal. Some ideas: TEDx-style coffee series around a themed topic, a knitting lunch session, or even an iPhone photography afternoon outing for everyone to improve their skills.

Leadership Challenge

If you manage a team of people or an entire organization I encourage you to look at minute 2:48 in the video. Mariah shares about her leadership at United Way that “lets her fly but also provides vision”.  If you’d like more tips and advice on effective leadership leave a comment so I can gauge the interest and write about it. If you’d like some one on one insight you can contact Mariah and Keisha directly.

Interested in working at United Way of Santa Cruz County? Check out their jobs!

Want to talk about it? Here’s your chance! “The New Work Place” hosted by YNPN Central Coast dive deeper into this topic face to face on Feb 26 at Next Space.

More good stuff coming your way my nonprofit people! Questions, comments or ideas for the Thriving Nonprofits blog feel free to reach me at teresa@teresaruizdecker.com.

Written by Teresa Ruiz Decker

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