Thursday, January 12, 2017

Laura Benson - Finding Warmth in Unlikely Places

Laura Benson is the Grant/Contract Projects Manager for the Minnesota Humanities Center, overseeing all grants and competitive processes for the organization. Laura, who is a native of Northern Virginia, managed the professional development and grant opportunities for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, a national service organization for the performing arts field, based in Washington, D.C. She believes in the enrichment of cultural life and that we should all pet more dogs.

If I can share a secret with you…I wasn’t sure what to write about for this blog post. The Minnesota Humanities Center programs (and the staff who work on them) highlight our experiences as humans, as community members, as parts of a whole, and all of those things resonate with a certain way of being in relationship to one another. I’m the Grant/Contract Projects Manager for the Humanities Center; I spend most of my days reviewing Federal Cost Guidelines, preparing check requests, and finessing contract language, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read a blog post about that. And yet, there are a couple of significant intersections between my role and our mission and values that won’t put you to sleep:

(1) I process a lot of payments for the organization; and it’s because the organization values compensating individuals for their time. If you’ve been involved with the Humanities Center in the last year and a half, I’ve probably asked you to fill out some kind of form or paperwork, which doesn’t exactly exude warmth. Our system isn’t perfect and there’s always room for improvement, but financial compensation is one way we can honor the personal cost that often comes with speaking from the heart and sharing of one’s self. Even the term ‘financial compensation’ feels cold and institutional, but when it stands for an expression of thanks and gratitude from another person’s heart, perhaps there’s a little more warmth there after all. (I’m also here for hugs, if anyone wants one. I’ll understand if you just want the check, but the offer stands.)

(2) As you may already know, the Humanities Center manages Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment grant funds on behalf of the state of Minnesota for 12 different organizations. Because they are state funds, there are a significant number of guidelines and policies involved. When I first started here at the Humanities Center, I was able to set aside time to meet representatives from all of the organizations face–to–face, in their individual organizational spaces. Before we dug into the state guidelines, contracts, payments, etc., I wanted to hear their personal stories, and I shared my story with them as well. I like getting to know people — especially if they have pictures of their dogs they can share with me** — and I consider this relationship-building an important part of the grants management experience. The Humanities Center isn’t here to simply enforce state policies (although we do that, too; don’t worry!) — we are here to be humans with one another.

So I guess, when you take the time to look for it, there is always warmth and humanity to be found, even in unlikely places.

**Fine, yes, I’ll share a picture of MY dog…his name is Pepper, and I think you’ll agree that he’s the cutest you’ve ever seen.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful message and absolutely the cutest dog ever. Not that I'm biased or anything. Love you - Papa