#MakingTime: A Day in the Life of a Globetrotting Nonprofit Director

Shelley Callahan

Photo courtesy of Shelley Callahan

May 22, 2024 at 1:18AM UTC

https://fairygodboss.com/career-topics/working-for-a-nonprofitWomen can do anything — but not everything. As the largest online career community for women, we at Fairygodboss realize that balance is a myth, and that picking what to prioritize on a day-to-day basis isn't always easy. In the #MakingTime series, women share with us how, for one day, they chose to spend their most precious resource: time.


Who: Shelley Callahan
What: Director of Development at Children Incorporated

6:00 am

I wake up and get out of bed and start the coffee maker immediately – before doing anything else. Either my husband or I get the coffee ready the night before so the only thing between us and a cup first thing in the a.m. is the press of a button.

6:15 am

I sit down and open my computer. I live on the West Coast and Children Incorporated’s main office in on the East Coast, so it is really important to me to get my day started around the same time that my co-workers are sitting down at their desks as well.

7:30 am

I make breakfast with my husband before he goes to work. We stick to eggs and avocado – as vegetarians, it’s light and easy to make and gives us a good protein punch in the morning so we both feel energized for the day. On this particular morning, he is taking over in the kitchen so I can finish up a few work emails.

8:00 am

My husband leaves and I get back to the computer. My morning consists of completing a story about a recent trip to Brazil by one of our staff members for our On the Road blog series on our website, scheduling emails blasts that go out to our donors and supporters, and working on our completing content and design for our print communications. I have my cell phone and two computers in front of me at this point so I can communicate via Slack, email, our social media channels, and even get on a Skype call all at the same time. I love technology and how it allows us to multi-task – it makes my job exciting!

9:00 am

Snack break. I always eat a banana mid-morning. If I forget to buy enough and we run out, I feel like my whole morning is thrown off. Today is thankfully not one of those days.

9:10 am

Phone call with our print materials provider, followed by a phone call with our web design team, followed by a quick call with our Google Ad representative. I don’t get to see many of the amazing people we work with in person because we all live in different places in the U.S., so short check-in calls every month or two are very valuable – even if everything is going smoothly, getting to chat in person can sometimes bring on new, great ideas that would not have come up otherwise over strictly email communications.

10:00 am

Break to go on a run. There is a park two minutes away from my house where I can do a quick 25-minute loop and really clear my head while listening to music. Breaks are so crucial when you work a demanding job. Today the temperature is cool, and it is early enough in the day where the sun is not blaring down on me so I am able to keep a good pace and maintain my speed throughout.

10:30 am.

Admittedly, I don’t shower right away after my run. I sit down again in front of the computer in my running gear and follow up on emails. By now, it is right after lunch on the East Coast, so it is time for the afternoon check- in to see what has developed in the office. I receive photos from our International Programs Director of children in the Philippines receiving free meals thanks to our International Feeding Program. I spend time editing the photos and creating content so that they can be shared on our social media platforms, as well as on our website.

11:00 am

The rest of the day is dedicated to writing – and more writing. Since Children Incorporated works in 23 countries, including the U.S., at 300 project sites with over 8,000 children, we have a lot of stories to tell and a lot of content to work with. I never get tired of writing stories about the work that we do and the impact that our donors have on children all over the world. Today, I am working on a story about children in Costa Rica who received mattresses last winter thanks to a fund we have set up when special needs arise in the communities we work in. Many of this childrne were sleeping on the floor before we were able to purchase mattresses for them.

12:30 pm

I make a quick spinach salad with tomato, cannellini beans, onion, and olives. I don’t like to eat a heavy lunch because I worry it will make me tired. Today, like most every day, I eat in front of my computer so my work isn’t interrupted.

2:00 pm

The office is closed now on the East Coast, but the work day is not over for me! I have a trip to Guatemala coming up in a few short weeks, so the afternoon is spent working on a video script. I will be traveling with our CEO to visit our projects in both Guatemala City and Antigua and while there, we will be working closely with a Guatemalan film crew that will be documenting our work. It is my responsibility to make sure our message is clear, the narrative is precise, and our call to action is accurate. We will only have three days to film in Guatemala, so making sure the team understands my vision for our video is essential.

3:30 pm

Finally, take that much-needed shower.

4:00 pm

Conference call with Guatemala film crew. We go over our schedule for the upcoming trip so that we make sure we utilize every moment we have together. They work for a local news team so I don’t doubt that they won’t be able to keep up with our hectic schedule.    

5:30 pm

Start making dinner for my husband and myself. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. I get to put my work away, listen to the news on the radio, and be creative with cooking. My husband says I am his favorite cook, so I never have to ask him what he wants ahead of time. I love surprising him with vegetable stir-fry or cauliflower buffalo wings or seitan tacos. We save a lot of money cooking at home every night too!

6:15 pm

My husband comes home and we eat on the patio and catch up about how our work day went and other things we have going on – who paid which bills and which families members we texted or talked with during our day.

7:00 pm

We always try to get a little exercise before the end of the day, but since we both work long hours, it is usually just a walk around the neighborhood – nothing too strenuous. This is the time when we are both the least distracted and just get to chat about whatever we want. We are both so busy and need time where we aren’t on our phones or thinking about our next move – and this is it.

8:00 pm

A quick trip to the grocery store for fresh produce. I love to focus on eating healthy, but it means going to the store multiple times during the work week. Luckily, we have three grocery stores within five minutes from our house, so it doesn’t take much time to pop in and pick up a few items.  

8:30 pm

Clean up the kitchen and wash our dirty dinner dishes, get tomorrow morning’s coffee ready, and sit down on the couch in the living room to watch the news. Although Children Incorporated is not an organization that has any political affiliation, what is going on in the world is relevant to our work in so many ways, so staying on top of current issues is beneficial when I am discussing with others the work that we do.

9:30 pm

In bed to read for a few minutes before falling asleep. I don’t usually make it more than a few pages before I doze off so it takes me a long time to finish a book, but I have always been an avid reader, so I make sure I have a book on my nightstand at all times. Currently, I am reading Paul Farmer’s book, To Repair the World, which is a collection of speeches about global health equity and social justice. I highly recommend it.

10:00 pm.

Lights out. I am serious about getting eight hours of sleep. It keeps me at my best!


In 1964, after personally witnessing the deprivation of children in Guatemala, Children Incorporated’s founder, Jeanne Clarke Wood, established Children Incorporated out of her home in Richmond, Virginia. Mrs. Wood began writing letters to seek assistance for the 95 children she met on her travels; these children formed the first Children Incorporated project. Thanks to past and current supporters around the globe, Children Incorporated now has over 300 projects which serve over 20,000 children annually. To date, over 300,000 children have been provided opportunities for growth and education, and have experienced the support and encouragement Children Incorporated provides.
Shelley Callahan, Director of Development at Children Incorporated, has traveled extensively across the U.S. and around the world reporting on the burden of poverty and working to support communities in need. She is truly an inspiring individual who lives out her passion day in and day out. From digging wells in Colombia, managing medical teams in Haiti, and reporting on the slums in Kenya and Ethiopia, Callahan has helped thousands of impoverished children around the world. She started her career in the non-profit sector in 2006, when she co-founded Books on Wheels which provided free books to children living in low-income neighborhoods. After graduating with a Masters of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008, her desire for helping children grew steadily when she followed her interests on a global scale joining Children Incorporated, an organization that works with nearly 300 projects in 23 countries, including the United States. Children Incorporated partners with already-established schools, orphanages, homes, and childcare centers to address the specific needs of the children they serve to ensure that every child enrolled in our program is provided with clothing, food, hygiene items, school supplies, and other educational tools. Callahan’s central point of the mission she shares with Children Incorporated is the life of charity isn’t at all about realizing the potential of her own goodness, but simply a way to facilitate and magnify the generosity of others. She is also author of the book, “The House of Life,” and has written for numerous publications online and in print publications about her work within the non-profit sector.

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