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Opinion: What I’ve learned as COO of a nonprofit

When people think of high school clubs, most people think of clubs like Math Club, French Club, or even Pokemon Club. Yes, there are some clubs that involve community service but most people don’t automatically think of high school student-run nonprofits.  Starting nonprofits is extremely hard. The state of California expects around $500 in order…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/virginiaasun/" target="_self">Virginia Sun</a>

Virginia Sun

October 16, 2019

When people think of high school clubs, most people think of clubs like Math Club, French Club, or even Pokemon Club. Yes, there are some clubs that involve community service but most people don’t automatically think of high school student-run nonprofits. 

Starting nonprofits is extremely hard. The state of California expects around $500 in order to start a nonprofit (this never made sense to me as, in theory, nonprofits aren’t supposed to make money, but the state still expects to get the money somehow!) How is it possible for a bunch of struggling, tired high school kids to raise this much money? 

To be honest with you, I’m not sure how my friends and I were able to pull it off. We just went with the flow and prayed to God that everything would turn out OK. I won’t lie, nonprofits are hard to run and require a lot of work and time.

There were times where I definitely felt like throwing it all away and giving up, but there were also times where I felt so accomplished with myself. I’ve also definitely learned many valuable life lessons, perseverance and patience being two of the many. This is what I learned as a Chief Operating Officer of a nonprofit organization. 

Last year in my sophomore year of high school, I was approached by one of my close friends David during an after school tutoring class (for my terrible grades) with an opportunity that I almost passed up. He was telling me about this crazy idea that he had, starting a nonprofit to give a voice for the voiceless. He wanted to start a nonprofit that would benefit animals in need of urgent care or care in general. At the time, I thought he was a lunatic.

Where was he going to get the money to file a 501(c)? Who was going to help him with filing? How was he sure that this idea would go through? The plan that he had was, for sure, not foolproof. I applaud him for having such big ideas. His creativity never failed to impress me.

After deliberating his insane plan, he offered me the position of Chief Operating Officer, the person with the most power after the Chief Executive Officer. Having this much power initially scared me, and I had many doubts about my abilities to contribute to the organization. I told my friend that I would think about it and give him a definite answer soon. 

David called me the next night to hear my answer. Spoiler alert: I said yes. We talked on the phone for three hours — he was detailing my job position and the requirements. I was instantly intimidated. Our first task was to send emails to shelters for partnerships.

We emailed three and all of them replied — go us! After a few emails were exchanged, we settled on a place in Orange County. However, they ended up flaking on us and never responded. It was a big slap in the face for David and I. 

Thankfully, an organization called VIDA, emailed us back. That same week, we met up with them and became partners. It all happened very quickly. Our next step was to raise money in order to pay for the filing. By the end of three months, we had raised around $800 through selling macarons illegally on our school campus. David took the money and filed for a 501(c). Two months later, we received our official nonprofit ID. Everything was going just the way we had planned it. 

However, after a while, one of our board members started becoming lazy and stopped working. David and I were extremely agitated by this as she was the one who came up with the idea of starting this foundation. Her and David agreed to split the club 50/50 — she would run the school board while David would run the nonprofit board.

She started becoming lazy and only appointed her friends on the school board, not people who were actually fit for the position. Every time David and I asked her to do something for us, she wouldn’t hesitate to say yes, but she never completed the task. This was our first conflict. 

We thought that she was secretly plotting against us, and we tried our hardest to resolve the conflict. There were times where I caught myself being extremely rude or impatient. Clearly, having such a poor attitude never resolved anything. At the time, I was so involved with trying to get the conflict resolved that I had the audacity to start being bossy and cold towards others.

After countless and pointless arguments and conflicts. I realized that maybe I should change my attitude and start being more patient towards others. Unfortunately, this only occurred to me after all of the conflicts. Thinking back, there were probably many conflicts that could have been easily resolved if I had been more understanding and patient. 

I’ve been the COO of this nonprofit for almost nine months. These nine months were probably some of my best and worst months. The nonprofit made so much progress that I could have never seen myself not being a part of it. Being the COO has taught me how to become more confident in myself and my decisions. I now had a platform to voice my opinions and ideas without the fear of being judged and dismissed. I was given the opportunity to become a better leader. 

By finally realizing that I need to have a better attitude, I can gladly say that my people skills have improved. I learned that not everyone has the same dedication that I may have and that some people will never do their work no matter how many times they are told. That being said, there are diligent workers who are passionate about their work.

Being the COO has taught me how the real world may be. This position has taught me to deal with every conflict differently as there will be many kinds of people that I will come across. Not everyone will be as nice as they should be. There were times where I was so adamant on giving up. I’m glad that I didn’t — we were able to accomplish so many things and those accomplishments will always outweigh the conflicts. 

I’m forever grateful that David approached me that one afternoon with this amazing opportunity. Even though I am annoyed of being the COO sometimes, I will never abandon my position. All the conflicts have resulted in major successes. For those of you wondering what organization I have been talking about, it’s RAISE Animal Foundation.

We have helped VIDA with their adoption events and started a fostering program for them. We have branched out to seven different high schools in the Orange County area. A total of over 500 people signed up to volunteer with us at the club rushes of our branches.

We are currently working on starting dog training workshops for new pet owners and opening a dog walking service. It can only go up from here. For a student-run nonprofit, I’d say we’re doing pretty well. 

We are always accepting volunteers! If you would like to join, please visit our website! You can also apply to adopt and/or foster pets through our website as well. For more information, please visit raiseanimalfoundation.org

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