Secret Success Stories: Sara Grossman: Matthew Shepard Foundation

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Secret Success Stories: Sara Grossman: Matthew Shepard Foundation

The Matthew Shepard Foundation is an LGBT non-profit organization with a mission to spread love and erase hate. I recently spoke to Sara Grossman who not only is a close friend of mine but also works at this amazing organization. Keep reading to find out what it's like working in the non-profit sector. 

Questions

Can you describe and tell me about the Matthew Shepard Foundation and its background?

Answers

Today’s interns may too young to remember the story about Matthew Shepard, but in 1998, Matt was a 21-year-old gay college student at the University of Wyoming. He was lured out of a bar in Laramie, beaten, and left to die on a fence just for being gay. That was the first time a gay hate crime got international media attention. His parents were both overwhelmed by the outreach from celebrities, politicians, and just everyday people who sent their condolences. They received cards, teddy bears, and a lot of money to help support them and pay for his medical bills,  which eventually was the seed money used for this foundation, which was founded a couple months after his death. The foundation has been in business for almost 20 years now. They have 4 different  programs which are:

  1. Legacy Work - this includes lots of legacy art projects. For example, the critically-acclaimed play “The Laramie Project,”  a Netflix documentary about Matt’s life called “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” and an oratory performance called “Considering Matthew Shepard” which is written and performed by Conspirare, out of Austin, TX. They even were nominated for a Grammy!

  2. Matthew’s Place - this is our LGBTQ youth blog. I manage this blog where students submit pieces on topics such as transitioning, dating, politics, etc.

  3. Hate Crimes Education/Reporting - Matthew Shepard became the victim of one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in the nation’s history, and his parents, Judy and Dennis, dedicated their lives to strengthening hate crimes law and raising awareness of the violence the LGBTQ+ community faced. In October 2009, the Shepards joined President Barack Obama as he signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. It expanded prior federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

  4. Speaking Engagements - Judy Shepard and our Executive Director Jason Marsden travel the country, speaking to businesses, schools, and other groups about the importance of hate crimes education and reporting.

Questions

What is your title and position at the company and what on earth does that mean?

Answers

I’m the Communications Manager.  I’m basically in charge of the organization’s blogs, emails, social media, PR, interviews, writing statements etc. Anything having to do with words–that’s me!

Questions

Can you describe a day in your life from morning until night. We love to give our readers a sense of what life is like in your world after college.

Answers

7AM: I’m walking my dog (Baxter). Today kind of sucked because it was snowing. Yes, on May 18th! That’s Colorado weather for ya.

9AM: Grabbing my coffee and just getting to the office.

11AM: Working through the news stories of the day. With everything  going on in the country right now, Google Alerts helps me stay on top of the latest news.

1PM: Finished getting through my emails and now moving on to working with our Programs Director about the next event, or talking to our researcher about getting our Hate Crimes Survey out to the community. I’m also scrolling through social-to catch up with news. It’s difficult keeping up sometimes, since everything breaks on Eastern Time.

 

3PM: Having my second cup of coffee, going through social media, and responding to reporters if need be. This is also usually my email writing time where I have to write appeals in order to fundraise for the organization. I’m also part of other coalitions, such as The Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence and Mountain States Against Hate. We meet monthly to help each other out and discuss different issues in our communities.

5PM: Checking my email one last time scrolling Twitter and Facebook one last time and packing up to head home for the day. I also happen to work for another organization called The Dru Project.  This is organization was started to honor of my friend who was a victim of the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando last year. Through this organization, we are giving scholarships to students who exemplify the spirit of Drew. We are giving away $1000 twice a year through students who are leaders in LGBT organizations in their communities . We are also currently in the process of creating a Gay-Straight Alliance curriculum for high schools in the state of Florida. Juggling two basically full-time jobs in the same sphere can be challenging, but it’s so necessary right now.

7PM: Usually making dinner and trying to stay off of my phone. My new policy is to make sure I get personal time in the evenings. With the emotional labor that my job requires, it’s necessary to do that extra “self care” these days.

10PM: I am going for “one last scroll” to make sure I didn’t miss anything urgent, tucking myself into bed, and getting ready for the next day. :)

Questions

Did you have any internships while you were in college? If so, what was the best thing you ever learned at your internships?

Answers

When I was in college, I worked for a magazine called Create Magazine- I was Lauren’s roommate back in college and she pestered me until I finally said to myself: “Fine! I need an internship!”  I also interned at the Florida Review which is UCF’s literary magazine. Through my internships, I learned that I truly did want to work in writing and apply that to my real world experiences. After UCF, I went on to grad school for writing. :)

Questions

How did you get from college to where you are today?

Answers

After college, I went to New York to go to The New School to get my MFA in Creative Writing. After graduating, I started working as a copywriter and editor and eventually learned all I needed to know about social media management–all self-taught! After New York, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I was freelancing and eventually got into politics by working with a state representative as a communications aide. From there, I went to work for One Colorado, which is the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. I worked as the digital media & communications associate. After One Colorado, I decided to leave advocacy and worked in startup in tech. There I worked with brand management and marketing.  During that time, the Pulse tragedy  happened (where I lost a really close friend) so I decided to go back to working in advocacy. I saw The Matthew Shepard Foundation has just posted this job so I immediately applied and now I’m here :)

Questions

If students want to work for your company are you hiring? What can a student do to stand out to work for your company?

Answers

Right now we are not hiring but we are always looking for awesome volunteers!  A great way to get into the nonprofit world is to volunteer. Through volunteering, you meet lots of people who can connect you to the correct person or organization. Networking is definitely a good way to get it done.

Questions

What is the hardest thing and best thing about your job?

Answers

Hardest: The hardest part of my job is the emotional labor that I have to put into it. I’m working for two organizations that were started because of a tragedy and one of them was a person that I knew really well.

 

Best Part:  Even though it is difficult, this is such important work right now. With everything going on in the country, I can not imagine doing anything else. To know that I am honoring my friend makes it feel more like a privilege, rather than a job.