My Nonprofit Reviews

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Review for Tibetan Aid Project, Berkeley, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I'll admit - I'm a person who likes tangible results. I find political activism frustrating because it always seems like you are fighting someone else who is keen on reversing every victory you make. That's why I love volunteering for Tibetan Aid Project--they get things done! Their current project is simple: raise funds, print books, give them away. They've given away 3 million books. They've reprinted thousands of copies of the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon. If those aren't tangible results, I don't know what is. The work is extremely satisfying (and I haven't even been to India yet to see the books given away!) Their model for success is also ingenious and I would encourage other non-profits to use it. This is how it works: everyone who works there full-time, whether they have been there for 40 years or 4 months, is an unpaid volunteer. It's a community model - instead of paying wages, they provide room and board. Volunteers live at the Nyingma Institute, a related organization, and generally walk to work. The Nyingma Institute also offers free, optional classes about Tibetan Buddhism to volunteers. It is the perfect arrangement for anyone who is interested in Buddhism or meditation and who measures success based on accomplishment rather than material gain. It's also a much more green way of living than having your own place and spending a whole lot of money on stuff you don't need! Of course, if having a TV, a car, and your own kitchen is important to you, then the residential volunteer program isn't for you. There are some negative aspects to Tibetan Aid Project, and some aspects that take some getting used to. First of all, full-time volunteers do work long hours, and some find this to be extremely difficult. The work is intended to be a spiritual practice, but if you aren't used to it, then it is easy to burn out and feel like a work-horse. Second, only a few people go to India each year to distribute the books to Tibetans, so most of us don't get to directly see the results of our work. (The ones who get to go always come back inspired, so it's a coveted role). Third, the organization is run by volunteers, so if there is a skill needed, they can't just go out and hire someone with that skill. They take whoever they can get, so many of us do jobs we weren't specifically trained to do. There is some inefficiency as a result. For example, our cook recently left, so now we take turns making lunch for 20+ people. Some of us have never cooked in our lives! But this type of stuff frequently happens with IT, graphic design, bookkeeping, and other skilled tasks as well. That's all I can think of, hope this was helpful!

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

joining with a community of volunteers who are genuinely devoted to their work. Some have devoted their entire lives to supporting this organization!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Volunteer & Helped with fundraising events and accounting.