Kate M. (Olson) Burggraff '03
Majors and Minors Sociology
Employer STEP - St. Louis Park Emergency Program
Current Position Volunteer Coordinator and Food Shelf Manager
How long have you been in your current position? 6 years
Describe your career pathway...
After graduating from Concordia, I did Americorps*VISTA for two year in Moorhead. When I moved down to the Twin Cities, I wasn't sure what exactly that I was looking for but I applied for the position at STEP because I would get to work with volunteers of all ages around issues that was important to me, hunger and poverty. At the beginning, I would never have guessed that I would be at STEP for over 2 years but now I have been there for over 6 years and it really has let me grow in many ways from my initial role. I should say that I was looking for a small non-profit to work for and in STEP I definitely found the opportunities and challenges that comes with that.
Description of overall job duties and responsibilities ...
Volunteer Coordination: --recruiting, screening & supervising individual volunteers and groups of volunteers. --communicating with volunteers about their role and their impact --building relationships with volunteers and key stakeholders Food Shelf Manager: --work with the community and partners to do food & fund drives --order food from our food banks to maintain the stock & variety on our shelves Communications/Marketing: --maintain STEP's website & facebook page --do media outreach when appropriate --work towards a consistent brand for the organization
What is your typical day like?
At STEP, like many small non-profits focused on serving families in crisis, there is no typical day. The top priorities are supporting volunteers and the smooth functioning of the food shelf. At STEP, I need to be ready to change gears at a moment's notice and be willing to do many tasks outside my specific job description. My day also involves responding to the many emails/phone calls from those interested in volunteering or supporting STEP in other ways.
What personal qualities or specific skills are important to being successful in your position?
Definitely someone in this position needs to value relationships. By understanding the importance of building long-term relationships with donors and volunteers, that builds a sustainable and successful program. One also needs to be able to have an attention to detail as well as an ability to step back and see the larger picture. Being able to communicate well, through written and spoken words, is important to being a spokesperson for the agency & program that you represent. At a place like STEP, one also needs to be able to go with the flow. This is sometimes still a struggle for me but STEP has definitely forced me to learn this skill.
How has your liberal arts education helped you in your career and pathway?
My liberal arts education was essential to thinking beyond just a job to what impact I wanted to make on the world. Leaving Concordia, I knew I was interested in working with kids around social problems in our world. While I didn't know it at the time, the role of a Volunteer Coordinator does just that. Through their volunteer time at STEP, not only can they make a difference in their community but they can also learn a little bit more about the challenges that are right next door and other ways they might be interested in addressing them. Concordia allowed me to think beyond just a job but to think about the impact that I wanted to have in my community.
What part of your job do you find most satisfying?
Working with volunteers. They care so much and give so much and bring so much more value to an organization. They truly make it a community organization and they relationships that they build with the families that STEP serves are so important. It's also great seeing all the families that volunteer at STEP over the years as the kids grow older and they engage in different ways.
What part of your job do you find most challenging?
The pace of STEP: rarely am I able to come into my job in the morning and know exactly what I am going to work on that day. Somewhere along the way, something else needs to be addressed. This is often the challenge of being at a small non-profit. Sometimes is great since no day is alike but often it's a challenging balance of getting the work done while addressing the tasks that arise. While working with volunteers is wonderful, it can also be challenging. Everyone has a different way of doing things and a different perspective about what's important. A volunteer's schedule can vary and change at a moment's notice. So it's always a challenge with organizing the many folks involved.
What advice would you give to students thinking of majoring in your major?
Majoring in Sociology gives you a great framework and background for going into a lot of different social service and organizing agencies. While it might not give you a specific job at the end of college, the understanding of how to look at the world around you and see the factors impacting individuals and families can be critical to many jobs in the non-profit and public sector.
Is there any other advice you would like to share?
I would strongly encourage exploring options through volunteering, internships and study abroad options during your time. These options helped me to focus my education and better understand how I saw my role in the world. It also helped me to learn about jobs that I never realized were available before--Volunteer Coordination is a great example of that.