By: Lee Ann Porter, Executive Director of Loving Bottoms Diaper Bank
I never miss NDBN’s annual conference because I learn so much that I can take home to power up my own work. Just as importantly, I get to spend time with my people, other basic needs bankers who are a source of inspiration, support and great information all year round.
Eight years of conferences. Eight years of experience.
My first conference was in 2016. I’d founded Loving Bottoms in Galesburg, Illinois the previous year. Every day, I fielded the same questions: What’s a diaper bank? What’s diaper need? It was so wonderful to land in Philadelphia at this event find that everyone not only knew what diaper need was: They were determined to end it. Most basic needs banks are the only such organization in their home community. That means we’re indispensable, but it can also mean that we are isolated. It’s great to connect to people who are getting diapers – and period supplies and incontinence supplies into their own communities.
By the time the 2022 U.S. Conference on Poverty and Basic Needs rolled around, I had been managing a warehouse for some time. I did not think I had much to learn on that score, but I was wrong. My colleagues at Sweet Cheeks did a great presentation showing how they manage their warehouse on a grid system that allows them to precisely see how well they are using space. I put the same system to work here in Illinois and discovered that I could store more product than I thought. That’s a big win for my organization. We now have a larger capacity to serve our community, without the expense of expanding our warehouse space.
My lightbulb moment
I had an aha moment of a different type when I attended a session about founders led by Megan Fischer of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank. It wrecked me. It had me in tears, which means that it was absolutely speaking to my heart. Starting a nonprofit can be all consuming. That’s not healthy for the founder or the organization. That presentation helped me think deeply about taking time with my family and not being totally absorbed in Loving Bottoms. Since then, I’ve seen other founders in the network do a great job of getting their organizations ready for new leadership. I’m making notes so that when my time comes I can do a wonderful, glorious hand off.
Sharing my knowledge with others
This year, I will be presenting at the conference for the first time. My session is called “The Art of Doing Nothing: Let Automation Do the Work in Your Basic Needs Bank.” Time is a precious resource in any nonprofit. Operating with 1.75 staff, I need to think about repetitive tasks that don’t require a human touch. For example, now we send automatic updates for folks on our waiting list, which means fewer inquiries that need to be answered by a staffer. This is freeing us up to do work that will have a bigger impact in our communities.
I’m looking forward, with just a hint of anxiety, to presenting. I’m also going to Orlando a few days early to spend time with my niece, who is interning with Disney. And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing my basic needs banking family when the conference starts. This is an exciting time in our world. The public profile of our issues is higher than it has ever been. And so the opportunities to help the people we serve are multiplying. Every year, I leave the conference in awe of the great work being done around the country. 2023 is going to be fabulous!