Behind the Scenes at STSM

In this guest blog, summer intern Keri Register writes about how working behind the scenes on various projects taught her how STSM fulfills its mission of serving survivors.

As an office volunteer at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, I have spent a lot of time on research and evaluation projects. Learning the virtues of Microsoft Excel and making phone calls to grocery stores for gift card donations is less interesting than working directly with survivors, but these more mundane tasks have furthered my understanding of what it takes to run a successful nonprofit organization.

During my time at STSM, I’ve worked on a range of projects, from creating presentations of survey results to researching fundraising programs and financial models. When I first started working with nonprofits, I never thought about where all of the organization’s information goes and what the organization does with it. I just assumed it all automatically fell into place. It doesn’t. For example, my first research project involved finding a new software program that we could use to enter donor information and volunteer hours. I didn’t really realize the importance of an effective management computer program until I had to use our old program to enter volunteer hour entries, one by one. Tedious doesn’t even begin to describe the adventures I had with the old system. To some, this might seem like a miniscule change, but improving this single aspect of the office’s work allows employees (and volunteers) to use their time more efficiently and to better navigate STSM’s development and volunteer programs.

Nonprofits such as STSM have a lot going on behind the scenes that few people ever see. Every volunteer hour has to be matched with a specific government grant in order for the agency to receive its funding. Every record the agency makes has to be kept for years and years—and with some semblance of organization. Corporate donors have to be called to get gift card donations to cover training expenses and clothing for survivors. Volunteer program evaluations have to be sent out to every volunteer, and then the results have to be compiled and analyzed. Yet STSM manages to do it, each and every day. When I think of all the hard work that staff and volunteers have put into this organization to make it what it is, I don’t mind the paperwork as much.

Every part of my experience has increased my understanding about sexual trauma and its effects on individuals and our community. I look forward to serving as a volunteer advocate in the few weeks that remain before starting my sophomore year at Davidson College in North Carolina, and I’ll be doing so with a deeper understanding of what happens back at the office. I now know that creating spreadsheets and filling out forms, however monotonous, are what give me the opportunity to answer hotline calls and assist at the hospital and give survivors the opportunity to receive help and healing.

 Keri Register is a student at Davidson College in North Carolina, considering a major in Biology or Neuroscience with a pre-med concentration. Next year, she plans on organizing sexual trauma awareness events on campus and hopes to spend next summer in Europe working with women's shelters and raising awareness about sexual violence.