Arlenis Morel

Chief of Staff, Make the Road New York

How old is your organization? 22 years old
What sector do you work in? Nonprofit Operations, Community Organizing and Advocacy
How long have you been working in this sector? 16 years
How long have you been with your current organization? I started at Make the Road as its first part-time receptionist in 2003.

If you have worked with CRE in some capacity, what impact did it have?
CRE helped us with our organization’s OMT (Organization Mapping Tool), which gave the opportunity to our Strategic Planning Team to discuss and collectively agree on MRNY’s organizational strengths, challenges and priorities.

What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
My first-hand experience goes back a decade+ and during this time it has been incredible to see the growth and powerful impact and evolution of community organizing and advocacy. 

What has been the greatest challenge during this same period?
One of the greatest challenges has been the rising demand of different programs and services, especially in low-income and immigrant neighborhoods. With rising costs of living in New York City and growing fear of traditional institutions among our communities, low-income and immigrant families in New York need support from community organizations like MRNY more than ever. 

What is the single greatest challenge you face today in your sector?
There are not enough investments in nonprofit infrastructure. The nonprofit sector is currently facing increasingly serious challenges and complexity that demand a stronger infrastructure to support their work and capacity building. As nonprofits continue to grow, it’s important to think and pay attention and support to their infrastructure (admin, HR, IT, and finance depts.). There is so much work to do but funding is limited.

What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
Nonprofits need to communicate with the people they’re serving, listen to their needs, and provide feedback. Invest in your community member’s leadership, be open to shift and adapt, and hire people that look like the communities you are serving. Find new opportunities for more unrestricted funding so the mission and vision of your organizations could become a reality. 

Why did you join this sector?
I have so much love and respect for community organizing and operations. I joined the nonprofit sector because of my mom; she’s one of the first members of Make the Road NY and she was the one that introduced me to the organization, because of her, and the members and staff of MRNY, I learned about the social justice movement and what it truly means to fight for respect and dignity. Operations, strategy, administration, IT and human resources are among the things that I truly enjoy doing; there’s something magical about creating systems, troubleshooting, finding effective ways to make things work, team building and human interaction that keeps me going every single day. 

If you were just starting out in your sector today, what advice would the person you are today give to the “newbie”?
Enjoy every single step of your journey, be patient, curious, and open to learning. Small steps are also progress. Asking for help is a strength and last but not least, if you want to be in this sector for a long time, you must find a balance and sustainability to take care of your body, your mind and the people and things that you truly love.

Find out more
Make The Road
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