YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

#nplove: Reunited and it feels so good

This weekend our National Board and Launchpad Fellows had the opportunity to come together from across the country and meet in person to discuss what's next for YNPN in 2014.

These retreat opportunities are so special and so important to the work that we do. YNPN is incredibly grateful for the support of the Denver Foundation, which hosted our most recent retreat; the Ford Foundation, which hosted our January 2013 retreat in New York; and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which regularly opens up its Baltimore office to the YNPN team.

The support we receive from these organizations is not just logistical and financial. Most importantly, we are grateful for their enthusiastic support of our mission and the work that we do. Thank you to the Denver Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for your #nplove!


I {Heart} Nonprofits

YNPN Twin Cities member Dania Toscano Miwa talks about why she's never gonna give up the nonprofit sector.

Seriously, what’s not to love? Organizations working to make social change, fix big hairy problems and impact change, both locally and globally. Staff who dedicate their careers and purpose to a mission and to improve our world.

Plus, of course, our volunteers and supporters, both in and out of the boardroom, who give away their time, talent and resources in support of what we do. It all adds up to a commitment, a values statement, an ideal.

Again I say, what’s not to love?

For me, growing up with two parents working for nonprofits, I never really even thought about it. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to devote my career to the betterment of the nonprofit sector.” It wasn’t a conscious choice. I found myself naturally gravitating to organizations and mission driven work. I wanted to “do something” and work for a place that cared about my values and value.

I do remember bombing a job interview at a bank. I knew it was over when I was told the volunteer section of my resume was of no value to this institution, and I would be best to remove it from my resume.  That would have eliminated almost all of my practical work experience, which I had gained from volunteering in offices at various organizations in high school and college.

What was left was my job at a doggy day-care. If I had taken that advice, I would have “expert poo scooper” and “positive reinforcement training assistant” as the sum total of my work experience. (Although I have to say the positive reinforcement dog training actually does have practical use in certain nonprofit environments as well, but I digress.)

Another reason I love this sector is the information-generous nature of the sector and its people. Most of the time when I’m working through a challenge with an organization, I can pick up the phone and chat with a colleague who has probably dealt with a similar issue and is willing to help troubleshoot.

This spirit of generosity permeates the sector. For example, there are free superb resources available here in Minnesota, such as the Principals & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence. In addition, there are the numerous national resource organizations such as BoardSource, with tons of resources dedicated to training effective board members, and CharityChannel, a great peer-to-peer networking site for fundraising professionals, plus a publishing arm. Idealist is especially useful to young professionals for professional skill building.

Many “helper organizations” are active in my region with the sole purpose and mission  to guide, educate, support and train nonprofit organizations.  In Minnesota, we have an extraordinarily strong Nonprofit state association, The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.   Additionally, there are such organizations as the Nonprofit Assistance Fund, MACC Commonwealth, MAP for Nonprofits, Charities Review Council, Nonprofit Resources Collaborative and more. These organizations and many more devote themselves to the betterment of the sector and its people and to continuously help organizations become more efficient, effective and maximize their impact.

I have worked, volunteered and supported organizations for my entire career and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I plan to stay connected to the nonprofit sector for the entirety of my career and I know many of my colleagues have pledged the same. Now if that’s not love and devotion, I don’t know what is!

Dania Toscana MiwaDania Toscano Miwa is the Managing Principal and co-founder of Toscano Advisors, a three-year old consulting firm specializing in strategy, fundraising, executive recruiting and leadership development for nonprofit organizations.

She has more than ten years of experience working with/for nonprofits as diverse as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, OTA-Pollen, The Northside Achievement Zone, The International Wolf Center, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Animal Humane Society, the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the Regional Parks Foundation. She is co-author and editor of the Toscano Advisors blog.

Dania is a member of the Boards of Directors of Azul, the Minnesota Zoo’s young professional board and chair of the governance committee, and on the board of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, where she is the co-chair of the development and outreach committee. She was formerly on the board of directors of her local YNPN chapter from 2009-10.

Your #workresolutions for 2014

At the beginning of this month, we asked you about your professional intentions for the year. We weren't surprised that many of our members were already thinking about how to make 2014 a great year professionally.
As we wrap up our #workresolutions series, we wanted to share some of the tweets and LinkedIn comments we got about your intentions for 2014:




  Catching up on professional development was a popular resolution:


And even our ED Trish got in on the action:

The most common theme, however, was the need to do less and restore work/life balance. YNPN member Natasha Golinksy wrote a great post on reverse resolutions, or choosing things that you're not going to do in the year ahead. This idea hit home for quite a few people:




Did any of these resolutions resonate with you? It's not too late to share your #workresolution with us in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion on Twitter and LinkedIn to share your #workresolutions with us. Every month we'll be talking about a new topic here on the blog and on social media, so make sure you're connected and part of the conversation.

One final note: At the end of our January newsletter, we took a quick poll as to whether our members set new year's resolutions or not. The answers were almost equally split, with 54% saying they do and 46% saying resolutions just aren't their thing.
Regardless of whether or not resolutions are your jam, we wish you a year filled with professional success!

Leaping into Consulting: My Recent Career Adventure

YNPN National Board member Cat Beltmann talks about the adventure she's embarking on in 2014 and shares a few tips for going out on your own.

Last August, I made one of the biggest career decisions of my life. I decided to start my own consulting business. I had never worked for myself, really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but knew that I had to make a change. I had worked with a number of consultants over the years and decided they had the best jobs ever. Doesn’t sleeping in, working on projects you want to work on, and sitting at your desk in pajamas sound amazing?!

I couldn’t officially make the leap until November, but decided that my first move needed to be talking to my boss. I knew that he would be supportive of my decision and I wanted his blessing to start talking to mutual contacts about my transition. The last thing I wanted to happen was for him to find out through the grapevine that I was quitting. Thankfully, our conversation went a million times better than expected. During my transition, I spent countless hours getting advice from anyone and everyone. I’ve learned a lot during the past few months. Sadly, my initial picture of consulting work was a bit skewed, but it’s been an amazing journey so far.

So, what advice have I found helpful?

1. Whether or not to set-up a work day routine is a big debate. Some people recommended acting like you are going to an office – shower, shave, and get dressed in work clothes. Others recommended just going with the flow. Work when you want and wear your pajamas if you so desire. I think you just need to find what works best for you. Attempt a structured routine and if you hate it make adjustments. What works for one person might not work for you.

2. If you work from home create a workspace. It’s easy to be reminded of all of the housework you could/should take care of when you’re sitting in the middle of it, and on the flip side it can be hard to stop working if you’re constantly sitting by your laptop. Working for yourself shouldn’t be an excuse to toss work-life balance out the window and designating a workspace can help. I was lucky enough to have a room that I could convert into an office. If you don’t have a separate room then carve out a corner of your kitchen, bedroom, or living room. Set-up a desk and use it when you’re working. Establish an office closing time, leave your desk, and don’t go back until the next day.

3. Working for yourself is very different than working for someone else. You’ll quickly realize there is a big difference between running your business and doing business. You are your technology person, bookkeeper, personal assistant, and chief marketing officer. Clients aren’t paying you for the time spent fixing your printer or setting up invoices. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll have to spend actually running your business. You might be working 60 hours a week, but you’re probably only getting paid for half of that (if you are lucky).

4. There are tools and apps that will make your life so much easier. Use them! Do your research and ask around. Two of the first things you’ll need to figure out is what it will cost you to run your business and how much you should charge. Freelance Switch has a great rate calculator to help you figure that out. I love using Toggl to track my time and Wave for accounting.

5. This sounds cliché, but believe in yourself and trust your instincts. My grandpa once gave my brother the advice that when you get to a four way stop just close your eyes and go. Terrible driving advice but great life advice. Close your eyes and go has become my personal mantra. If you’re going to succeed you have to trust yourself and your abilities. Every time I start to panic and doubt myself I just remember to close my eyes and go. I’ve never regretted doing it and have found that I’ve succeed more times than I’ve failed.

6. Don’t forget to breathe. A friend sent me an email on my last day at my job old, she told me to take a deep breath – enjoy my last day and then take a few days before I started stressing out about finding work. The emotions and stress that go along with starting your own business can be overwhelming. I am fortunate and am off to a very solid start, but every few days I panic. I panic about finding work, if this was good financial decision, and the list goes on. After of few minutes of panic, I remind myself to take a deep breath. It’s impossible to control the future and uncertainty is part of the game. Panic won’t help you lock in your next contract or produce better work. It will only prevent you from being successful.

7. This is your journey. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is that my journey is my own. No one has all of the answers, no one piece of advice is better than another, and every journey looks a little different. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Originally published at Leadership & Community

Cat BeltmannCat Beltmann is the owner of So Good Consulting where she partners with organizations to create and sustain social value through events and community engagement initiatives. Recent clients include the Bush Foundation, the Office of the Secretary of State, and Mylan Communications Consulting.

In her previous position, she served as the Community Engagement Manager for the Citizens League where she was in charge of developing, coordinating, and implementing numerous small and large scale events. She served as the League’s event manager for the Policy and a Pint series, a partnership between the Citizens League and 89.3 the Current.

She managed event concept development, sponsor recruitment, budget development, and event implementation for 6 of the Citizens League’s annual meetings, which draw approximately 300 attendees annually and have feature both local and national keynote speakers. Most recently, she was the catalyst for the creation of the Generation Now Leadership Visit, a 3-day leadership development trip that took 50 current and rising professionals from Minnesota to Milwaukee.

Cat holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and will receive a Masters in Nonprofit Management in the summer of 2014. She is also sits on the national board for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

Cat can be contacted at Cat@SoGoodConsulting.org, linkedin.com/in/catbeltmann, or twitter.com/KittyBeltmann

Eat, Pray, Coach

The past several years of surveying and talking with our members have made it clear that Individual Coaching & Support is one of the most important pillars for personal and professional development.

Unfortunately, it's also the area that emerging leaders often have the least access to, both in terms of finding these resources and paying for them.
We here at YNPN believe very strongly that everyone should have access to individual coaching and support. The work of changing the world and building stronger communities is not only incredibly important, it’s also ridiculously complex. Understanding how each of us can best fit into that equation is also incredibly important and complex. So while sometimes all you need to be a better contributor is a really informative workshop and a solid network of community contacts, often times the help you need to figure out your contribution requires much more of a personal touch.

Sisters, Brothers, I’ve Been to the Coaching Mountaintop

When I took on the job of being the first national director of YNPN, nearly everyone I spoke with recommended that I find a coach.
“No, thank you,” I said.  “Coaches are for ladies who lunch and people who read Eat, Pray, Love,” I explained helpfully. “I will rely on grit and sheer will to do this ridiculously hard thing that I’ve never done before. KThanksBye.”

Basically I saw coaching as too much of a privilege and an indulgence. But within two months of taking on the position, I was so desperate for help that I wasn’t even sheepish about going back to these folks and asking them to recommend someone--anyone--who could make me feel like the world wasn’t spinning.

I’ve worked with an executive coach now for over two years and have since become a bit of a proselytizer about its benefits. It does still feel like an enormous privilege to have someone providing me with such direct, individualized support every week. But rather than turning down something that I know is incredibly valuable for me because not everyone has access to it, I have made it part of my personal mission and our organizational mission to make sure that many more people can take advantage of this powerful tool.



So what’s a coach and what does a coach do?

Well, the International Coaches Federation describes coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”  But when my friends and colleagues ask me about what my coach does, I basically say three things: She reminds me of my strengths, she helps me set priorities, and she convinces me each week that I’m not ruining everything. It’s kind of awesome.

Increasing access to coaching is just one of the targeted ways that we’re working to unlock the potential of an entire generation of social change leaders. You can help us zero in on the best strategy for helping members access coaching by completing this super-short survey and sharing it with your friends. Help us help you!

And if you want to read more about the transformative power of coaching, check out this blog post from one of our former LaunchPad Fellows, Betty-Jeanne Reuters-Ward.

Take our coaching survey to let us know how we can best help you with coaching resources.

#workresolutions: Make your own projects

YNPN member Alexa Riner tells us about her #workresolution for 2014.

This year I've decided to jump off into the deep end. The economy is sluggish at best and has been for years now, and I’m getting discouraged looking for the right job doing the kind of work I want to be doing. I have ten years of project management skills that aren’t getting utilized. It’s time for me to make it happen.

This is my New Year’s resolution for 2014: I am going to go out and create interesting work for myself rather than wait for it to come to me.

I'm embarking on a research project to examine my local community infrastructure and locate leverage points to improve the ways we construct where we live, learn, work, and play. I’m interested in the rules we make and how these rules are enforced. In my past architectural work, I’ve seen some poorly-incentivized practices. I’d like to have a hand in improving those practices and making them more accessible to a wider set of community members.

Not only do I have a goal, I’m designing a system to help me reach it. I’ve already written up my process outline and I'm setting up ticklers in my calendar for each step. I’m going to look up statistics, headlines, and trends in community infrastructure.

Then I’m going to conduct informational interviews with a variety of people involved in different sectors of construction, from owners to builders to regulators. Then I will have some sense of what my community wants or needs and how we might go about getting it.

What’s nice about this idea is that it makes networking a breeze. Instead of going around to people asking them how I can get a job, I’ll be going around asking them about what they do and how they are impacted and what their needs are. It gives my networking endeavors a context. I have a deeper reason for talking to them, and I’ll be genuinely interested in what they have to say instead of distracted by my own financial situation. I believe this reframe is important.

It is so easy to get stuck thinking I need someone else to agree to pay me before I can do what I want to be doing. In 2014, I’m turning that whole problem on its head.

UntitledAlexa Riner is an architectural designer, organization development consultant, and co-founder of the infrapreneurial consulting firm Roots to Success: Whole System Consulting, which works to build strong community organizations and partnerships in Northern California. You can find Alexa on Twitter at @rokuloquat.

What are you NOT going to do in 2014? #workresolutions

YNPN member Natasha Golinsky shares her take on #workresolutions: the reverse resolution.

As a working mom of three young kids with volunteer commitments, a huge extended family, and a household to run, a question I get all the time is “How do you get it all done?"

People always assume that I’m swamped with things to do; however, the truth is that I have lots of spare time (more than I’d like to admit). Despite my to-do list, I manage to watch a bit of TV every day, read about a book a week, and spend lots of time with my husband and kids.

It’s not because I know millions of personal productivity short-cuts, but it’s because I keep things simple. I’m very conscious of just how much time I have and how much emotional energy I have to go around. After years of being an over-commitment-aholic, I finally wised up and realized that everyone loses when things get too busy in my life. Not only do I feel more stressed out but my kids start acting crazier, my marriage feels strained, I start to fall short on commitments, and the quality of my work decreases. It's no way to live.

This year instead of bogging yourself down with a ton of resolutions that will only put you under more pressure, why not make some “reverse resolutions” (i.e., things you’re NOT going to do)? We all have way too much on our plates and not all of it has a great return on investment. Why not strategically get rid of some of the items on your task list this year instead of piling on more?

Which five things are you doing right now that don’t have a decent enough pay-off for you to keep doing them?

Which things do you need to quit? (FYI: Quitting something unproductive doesn’t make you a quitter. Continuing to do something unproductive is actually a very silly thing to do.)

Don’t worry about how quitting this task will look to others around you. Your primary responsibility is to yourself and your mental health. Chances are that anyone who would judge you is just as over-committed and feels jealous that you had the confidence to stand up for yourself and your quality of life.

This year, do less. Under-commit and enjoy some time off. Make this the year that you get back to enjoying your life instead of constantly feeling like you’re drowning in to-dos.



Natasha Golinsky is the founder of Next Level Nonprofits, an online training company dedicated to helping new Executive Directors learn how to "stop putting out fires" and "start blazing a trail" instead. You can find her on Twitter as @ngolinsky

Tell us your #workresolutions for 2014

There's just something about a new year that feels like a fresh start.

So why do we so often spend this fresh start fixating on the things we want to change about ourselves?

New Year's resolutions could be a powerful, inspirational idea.

Instead they usually end up making us feel like this:

This year we'd like to try something new. Instead of making resolutions to change ourselves, we're setting professional intentions for the year ahead. We're calling them #workresolutions.

Have you always wanted to learn HTML? Is it time for you to ask for more responsibility? Are you hoping to work up the courage to ask for a raise? Resolve to make 2014 the year that you do it.

This month we'll be writing and talking about #workresolutions: how to make them, how to keep them, and what we hope to accomplish this year. Most importantly, we want to hear your thoughts and resolutions, so keep an eye on our blog and Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to join the conversation.

As you think about your #workresolutions, here are a few articles to inspire you:

Want to accomplish more? Do something small, every day.

Everyone feels stuck from time to time. Here's how to set goals that will help you bust out of a rut.

11 resolutions that will jump start your career

Already set your resolution? Here's how behavioral economics can help you stick to it.

What are you hoping to accomplish professionally this year?

Connect with YNPN in 2014

For the last 12 days, we've been celebrating our favorite moments from 2013. We accomplished a lot last year, but we know this year is going to be even better.
Connect with YNPN to make sure that you're a part of the movement in 2014!
YNPN Member Newsletter: In January, we're launching a new newsletter for our members with resources for professional development, networking, and sector news. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest from YNPN delivered straight to your inbox.
The YNPN Blog: This year we're expanding our original content and adding contributors from the YNPN network. To make sure you don't miss a post, add our blog to your RSS reader.
Young Nonprofit Professionals Group on LinkedIn: There's always a lively and thoughtful discussion going on in our LinkedIn group. It's a great place to share and find resources and advice. Join the conversation on LinkedIn.
YNPN on Twitter: Over on Twitter, we're sharing some of the best articles, resources, and thought leadership from around the web and helping nonprofit professionals around the country connect. Follow YNPN on Twitter.
YNPN on Facebook: Connect with us on Facebook for a little bit of everything, including career advice, inspiration, and photos from events across the country. Like YNPN on Facebook.

12 Days of YNPN: Ready for 2014!

In November, our National Board and Launchpad Fellows met in Baltimore at the Annie E. Casey Foundation to review the work of 2013 and get ready for 2014.

This year, YNPN National has invested in important infrastructure, like our improvements to the Wordpress platform used by National and many of our local chapters. We also refreshed our mission and vision statements to make sure that they expressed what we hope to accomplish across the network and the nation.

We also embarked on a Theory of Change process that will inform our next phase of growth and impact as an organization. Throughout 2013, we have been consulting with our National Board, local Chapter Leaders, and experts to identify how we can best support our chapters and partners. As we compile the final data and reports, this information will be used to create a strategic framework that will maximize our impact and help us reach our full potential.

Our National Board, staff, and Launchpad Fellows have been thinking big and bold about the future of YNPN. One of the biggest highlights of 2013 has been laying the groundwork for 2014 and beyond. We're looking forward to making next year and the years ahead even better than this one, and we hope you'll join us on the journey!


YNPN National Board during their November Retreat at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore

YNPN National Board during their November Retreat at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore