My name is Laura Rentler and I am interning at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management this summer.  Currently, I am a junior at Robert Morris University where I am majoring in Marketing and Hospitality and Tourism.  I will also be receiving a certificate in nonprofit management through American Humanics.  To receive this certificate, students must complete a 300-hour internship with a nonprofit, attend a conference, and take two courses on basic nonprofit information.  A few of the BCNM staff members were in charge of teaching the class at Robert Morris University, which is how I got this great opportunity of working here for the summer. 

I remember in my junior year of high school I told my Mom that I wanted to be an accountant.  She was shocked and knew that I had a different calling in life.  Well, she was right.  My senior year of high school, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon for the Highmark Caring Place.  My family and I attended the Caring Place in 1998 after my father passed away.  The Caring Place helped me grow as a person, so I was honored that they would ask me to speak in honor of them.  After I delivered my speech, one young high school student came up to me and said, “I know how you feel.  I lost my father and I haven’t gotten help for it.” You could tell this particular audience member was really touched by my story and could relate in some way.   After that moment, I instantly knew that I wanted to be working in an environment where I could make a difference in people’s lives.   I can’t tell you what came over me that day that possessed me to choose the nonprofit field, but I knew that this was my calling. 

When I got home from the luncheon, I told my Mom that I wanted to work for nonprofits the rest of my life, and she was thrilled.  I told other family members and friends and kept getting the same comments and questions:  “Why would you want to work for a nonprofit; you are not going to make any money.” To this, I would always say that I want to make money to pay the bills and provide for myself, but I also want a job that I love doing. I want to be one of those people that comes home from work and says, “I love my job!”  Let’s just say that I didn’t get the reaction out of them as I did from my mom, but then I do come from a family of financially oriented people.

Overall, I feel happy with the direction I’m taking, but I still have questions:

  • Will I find a job after I graduate?
    • I know Pittsburgh has a large amount of nonprofit organizations, but many agencies it seems have small staffs that tend to be loyal.
  • Is there opportunity for career growth in the sector?
    • It seems like it is more difficult to progress into a higher position since many organizations are small and folks seldom leave. Of course, I realize that most sector professionals had to start somewhere, but I don’t want to put in years of energy to realize there was a glass ceiling all along.
  • Will I have a salary even if the organization is struggling?
  • What happens to an agency if it raises less and less money every year?

I don’t think my concerns and questions are any different than other college students as they near graduation.

In January 2008, the Bayer Center settled into a new office space in the Regional Enterprise Tower, where 85% of the 90 tenants are nonprofits. Being a part of this neighborhood has proven to be an invaluable resource. On the night before our big TechNow conference, the Bayer Center copier decided to unexpectedly take ill. The wonderful folks at Sustainable Pittsburgh on the 13th floor saved the day by welcoming us to use their copier for the afternoon. The kind staff of PPND on the 17th floor encouraged us to use their conference room free of charge to conduct meetings while our suite was under construction. Our friends on the 30th floor, Visit Pittsburgh, invited our staff to pick up our Good Apples packages at their office so we don’t have to venture outdoors in the cold.

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French moralist Joseph Joubert said, “We shall always keep a spare corner in our heads to give passing hospitality to our friends’ opinion.” The Bayer Center has taken this one step further by also keeping a spare corner in our office to give passing hospitality to our friends. The Bayer Center hotel is open to anyone who comes to our neighborhood by offering a place to rest and catch up on work. A quiet workspace containing a computer, phone, and wireless internet is waiting for you whenever you need it. With this small gesture, we hope to mirror the same hospitality that Sustainable Pittsburgh, PPND and Visit Pittsburgh offered us.