YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Guest Post: The 4-step program for successfully networking as an introvert

This post originally appeared on YNPN Twin Cities' blog and was written by board members Jamie Millard and Chris Oien . You can follow them on Twitter: @jjmillard and @coien.
Networking is important. You know that, and we know that. It’s pretty much a given. But what do you do if just the thought of networking makes you want to crawl into a hole? We’ve both been there, because we are two of the roughly 25% of people who are introverts.

When it came time for each of us to go to our first YNPN networking event, we debated whether or not to go, and eventually skipped out—leaving a sick feeling in our stomachs. We later did get involved with YNPN; and when we met each other, we realized we had both bailed on the same event. While it had been a lonely experience, neither of us was alone in it, and knowing that was a huge relief.

So in hopes of helping fellow introverts with their networking anxieties, we’re sharing the steps we took to overcome our own.

Step 1: Research the group and key people.

The most effective treatment to resolve your networking anxiety is a heavy dose of preparation. That begins with knowing beforehand who is likely to be at the networking event. Most networking groups or conferences will have some sort of online presence where you can begin your research. For example, if you’re going to attend a YNPN event, you could research board members on the website, members in the directory, see who RSVPs to the Facebook event, or who is talking about the event on Twitter.

A good place to start is to find people you share something with. This can be people in your industry (arts, direct service, environmental, etc.) or people who do the same kind of work (marketing, fundraising, advocacy, etc.). Also, it is helpful to identify a “super connector” that makes sense for you to fold into your network.

Step 2: Connect on social media.
After you’ve completed your research and identified the people you want to connect with, it’s a good idea to reach out to them before an event. Social media has made this easier than ever, especially with young and tech-savvy groups. The top site to turn to is Twitter: Making connections to people you should know is part of its DNA. LinkedIn is also a great resource for connecting to new people on a professional level.

If you connect with members of a networking group and let them know you’re interested in joining, it’s a good bet they’ll be glad to talk to you. Whether you keep it to talking online or ask for an in-person meeting, when it’s event time you’ll be glad to know there are people involved who will recognize you and can introduce you to others.

Step 3: Know your talking points.

 You’ve researched people, you’ve connected with them on social media, and now you’re ready to dive into conversation, but not until you’ve properly prepared talking points. Talking points can be a combination of referencing the theme of the event and asking simple questions.

Themed networking events, like speed networking or an ugly sweater party, provide more structured activities and fun icebreakers to ease the flow of conversation. These types of networking events ensure that you’ll worry much less about being on the sideline while other people talk.

Whether or not your networking event has a theme, be ready with a list of questions to ask the people you meet. Keep your questions simple (e.g. How did you get involved with this networking group?), so you don’t forget them or get tripped up. Making certain to have questions ready ahead of time reduces anxiety and avoids those uncomfortable long pauses.

Step 4: Set specific goals.

 It’s important to leave a networking event feeling like a success. To do so, come with goals you’ve set for yourself beforehand (e.g. talk to a specific person, network with at least three people, etc.). Once you reach these goals, feel free to excuse yourself. If you go right after an awkward exchange or after you’ve sat in the corner alone for a while, you’re going to feel like a failure and this will strongly deter your motivation to attend future events. If you instead leave after ticking that last goal off your list, you’ll feel accomplished and encouraged to keep coming back. Introverts will likely always have that initial networking anxiety, but by following these steps, you can learn to master it and become just as successful as the most outgoing extrovert.

Fellow introverts: What are your best networking tips and tricks? And for the extroverts: What do you do to help the introverts at networking events feel comfortable?

Let us know in the comments!

Guest Post: Approach your nonprofit career like a creative entrepreneur

Image credit Hugh McLeod

This post originally appeared on YNPN NYC's blog and was written by YNPN NYC member Eleanore Whitney.

As an emerging nonprofit professional do you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Not just a social entrepreneur who is working to implement innovative ideas to enact social change, but yourself? Do you view your own career an entrepreneur would a start up?
I recently read a slew of books aimed at creative entrepreneurs, including Creative, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelart Cho, which is a practical guide about how to launch a freelance creative business; and Birthing the Elephant by Karen Abarbenel and Bruch Freeman, which sells itself as a woman’s guide to launching her own business (and has a terrible name, but is full of good advice).

Though I work full time for an arts non-profit I found myself inspired by the ideas and strategies these books presented. As someone with a steady paycheck sometimes I feel I have lost track of the fact that I, and I alone, am responsible for my career advancement and professional development. This is not to say that nonprofits should not opportunities for employee growth, but I realized that we as young nonprofit professionals can empower ourselves by thinking about our career like an entrepreneur thinks about their start up.

The bottom line is that we do not have to wait for the organizations we work for to give us permission to be pro-active and entrepreneurial about our careers. Based on my reading for creative entrepreneurs here are some ideas I have gleaned:

  • Have a personal mission statement
    • Businesses, both not and for profit, use a mission statement to guide what they do. A good mission statement outlines the purpose and scope of organization’s work, as well as their values. Adopt a similar approach to your professional life. What is your purpose for doing the type of work you do? What are your core values? What are you working to achieve?
    • Brainstorm, craft and refine your statement. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but being clear about your purpose will bring clarity and confidence to the work that you do.
  • Develop a vision for your career
    • A vision is an extension of your mission and is the larger picture that you are working to make a reality in your life. If you implement your mission statement by working purposely and in line with your values, where do you dream that work will take you?
  • Set goals that are measurable and attainable
    • Entrepreneurs approach their projects as a series of goals and actions steps. Approach your career in a similar manner. Develop your goals based on your mission and vision for your professional life and break those goals into smaller steps, such as learning a specific skill or volunteering to get experience in a certain kind of organization. The blog Design Sponge ran an excellent article about goal setting and planning. Read it to help you make your goals a reality.
  • Reassess often
    • If you are not meeting your goals or you are frustrated with a job turn it into an opportunity to reflect and reassess. Are you still on the path to realizing your vision? Has your vision for your career changed? Use what’s not working to diagnose what you need to 
  • Market yourself
    • You are your own best advocate. Drop false modesty and speak with confidence about what you would like to achieve in your career, what you are working on and what you would like to learn more about. Your enthusiasm will draw others in and help you make connections and open doors.
  • Adopt a brains before bucks mentality and invest in resources wisely
    • Be honest about your finances and do not over invest in goods, products or services that will make you feel more successful, but are a financial stretch. If there’s a skill you want to learn or an experience you want to have, find a way to make it happen for less money. Barter, volunteer, or arrange a skill share.  Investing sweat equity is better than going into debt!

While this is a small introduction to a huge topic, the key here is to shift your thinking to see yourself as an entrepreneur of your professional destiny. With this thinking you are empowered to dedicate yourself to achieving your vision whether you work full time, part-time, freelance or are staring your own organization.

Overall, thinking of your emerging professional career entrepreneurially means going beyond being proactive in your professional life. It requires you bring focus, drive, and a desire to innovate and achieve a vision for yourself as a nonprofit professional. You can harness these qualities by crafting a career mission statement, clarifying your vision and goals, reflecting on your practice often, advocating for yourself and wisely seeking out additional resources.

What have you done to approach your career entrepreneurially? What are your favorite resources for entrepreneurial thinking that you have found are most applicable to you in the nonprofit world?  And what entrepreneurial step will you take next in your nonprofit career? 

Eleanor Whitney is a writer, musician and arts administrator and project manager making it happen in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently the Program Officer for External Affairs and Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts and received her Master’s in Public Administration from Baruch College. Read all of Eleanor’s posts for YNPN-NYC.

Guest Post: Paying for Student Loans on a Nonprofit Salary

The following guest post comes from YNPN Chicago member Melanie Hoekstra and originally appeared on YNPN Chicago's blog. We wanted to share this post as a follow up to guest post earlier in the year from blogger Heather Jarvis about newly released details on the documentation that nonprofit employees need to substantiate their eligibility for the student loan forgiveness program. Melanie does a great overview of how you make the "loan thing" work on a nonprofit salary.

You can also find more information on the public service loan forgiveness program by checking out the list resources Heather has curated.

Paying for Student Loans on a Nonprofit Salary

Can it be done? Can you eat more than ramen noodles for the next decade and still work at the non-profit job you love while paying back your hefty student loans? YES. Enter the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA). Under the CCRAA, you can: (1) pay your federal loans at a much lower monthly amount under the Income-Based repayment plan, and (2) have those federal loans forgiven after 120 payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program for people who work for 501(c)(3)s and government agencies (10 full-time years, not necessarily consecutively) . Seriously, this two-step process is an incredible option for anyone working in the non-profit world or for the government.

Lowering Your Monthly Loan Payments If you’re still in school (undergrad or graduate!), the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that as many of your loans as possible are from the federal government. These are generally called “Direct Loans” and can cover most to all of what you need to go to school. It’s important to note that CCRAA does not apply to private loans, which will generally require you to pay them back at the terms agreed upon when you started (though there are usually some options for graduated repayment, etc.). Talk to your school’s financial aid department about ensuring that your loans are some form of Direct Loans to remain eligible for the program.

If you are about to start repayment, you need to do two things. First, consolidate all of your eligible loans into one single loan through the Department of Education’s Federal Direct Consolidation Loan. Doing so makes your loan payments much simpler to track, after their consolidated, at least, and it also allows some loans like Perkins that are not eligible for PSLF to be rolled into the consolidated loan and become eligible. Second, during consolidation, be sure to select the Income-Based Repayment plan. IMPORTANT: Do not select the Income-Contingent Repayment plan, as it does not qualify you for loan forgiveness. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) estimates your monthly repayment amount at 15% of your disposable income. You can calculate your payments here.

Qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must make 120 payments while you work full-time for a registered 501(c)(3), a government agency, or in a “public service” position, which includes public health and public education jobs, military, and legal aid positions. You don’t need to make the payments consecutively, so you could switch sectors and then come back, but be aware that this reduces the benefits of both programs. More specifics, along with lots of other details, can be found here and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here

Other Noteworthy Items Are those who started working for a non-profit or in a public service job before this law took effect eligible? It depends on the state of your loans now. If you consolidated your federal loans, then you can switch to the IBR plan, which will almost definitely lower your monthly payments. Any payments you made (under any repayment plan) while working full-time at a public service job since October 1, 2007 will count toward PSFL.

It’s also important to know that even if you do not qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program but instead only have a relatively low-paying job in non-qualifying sector (e.g. private sector), you can still get your loans forgiven. It takes 25 years and you have to be on either Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment, but it can be done.
There’s a lot of information about the College Cost Reduction and Access Act out there, but many people don’t know about it – so tell your friends! And find out more information here and here.

Melanie Hoekstra is the Operations Manager at The Plant, a vertical farm and food-business incubator.  She is a graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law and the University of Michigan. She cooks, reads, bikes, and sees her friends whenever she can.

Chapter Leaders: Share Your Chapter's "Good in Theory" Story!

YNPN National wants to hear from you! How has your chapter used the "Good in Theory" report?

As many of you know from the emails going across this listserve, the report has gained considerable traction since its release in Fall 2011:

  • In January, the Foundation Center did a podcast about the report with Trish and YNPNsfba Board Chair Amanda Pape Laneghan.
  • Just a few days later, The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted Trish and Jan Masaoka for an online conversation about employee morale where report drove much of the discussion.
  • Idealist.org invited YNPN National to write a blog post about "Good in Theory."

In addition, some chapters and organizations are researching ways to conduct local versions of the national report. Others have integrated the report into their programming. Some have even hosted parties celebrating the report's release.
Help us keep all of this momentum going strong! Let us know what your chapter has done. Maybe your chapter's story will be featured by YNPN National!

Please complete the "Good in Theory" survey by Thursday, March 28. Please complete the survey even if your chapter has not yet done anything with the report. It will only take a few minutes and give National some valuable information about how the report has been used and how it can better support the chapters across the country.

We look forward to hearing from you and learning what your chapter has accomplished.

The Story: Recap of YNPN White House Tweet Up

For the second time, YNPN was invited back to the White House for a tweet-chat with Jon Carson (@joncarson44), Director of Public Engagement at the White House to have a frank conversation about young people and the future of the nonprofit sector.

For the second time, YNPN was invited back to the White House for a tweet-chat with Jon Carson (@joncarson44), Director of Public Engagement at the White House to have a frank conversation about young people and the future of the nonprofit sector.

Guest Post: Must Have Docs for Nonprofit Student Loan Forgiveness

This post comes to us from student loan expert Heather Jarvis. YNPNers around the country have been relying on her eagle eye for advice and updates on the federal government's student loan forgiveness program (which many nonprofit employees qualify for). We are grateful for her latest blog post- info that many of us have been waiting for! You can also find more information on the public service loan forgiveness program by checking out the list resources Heather has curated.

3 New Documents Everyone in Government and Nonprofit Services Needs Right Now

The Department of Education today released the long awaited Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form!  Woot!

Folks in government and 501(c)(3) nonprofit service* can finally get that warm and fuzzy feeling that will come from the government saying “yes” your employment qualifies and “yes” you made x number of payments that count towards forgiveness.

Why This Is Important 
Student loan borrowers can earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness by making 120 of the right kind of payments, on the right kind of loans, while working in the right kind of job*.  But you also have to PROVE that you met all the requirements of the program.  That’s where the paperwork comes in.  

Nothing about Public Service Loan Forgiveness is automatic.  Not one thing.  Student loan borrowers will need to jump through a whole lot of hoops to establish that they have earned the forgiveness.  Flaming hoops probably.  But student loan borrowers aren’t afraid of a little paperwork, right?  We say Bring. It. On.

If you think you are working for a qualifying public service employer and you’re working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, YOU NEED THIS FORM.  You love this form.  This form is your BFF. 

Run, don’t walk, and download these documents:
Instructions for Completing the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form
Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form
Department of Education’s Letter to Borrowers about the process

Read it all.  Fill out your part and take the documents to your work.  Figure out who is authorized to sign for your employer and ask that person to fill out their part fully and carefully.  Make sure everything is totally filled in and then submit the form to:

FedLoan Servicing
P.O. Box 69184
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184

Or Fax to 717-720-1628

Do this every year and whenever you change jobs.  Keep copies of your W-2s and paystubs, and whatever else you think documents your employment or supports your employer's eligibility.  Keep this stuff until the end of time.  Forever.  And then keep it some more.  I recommend the paranoid method of record keeping in this case.

For help with the form call FedLoan Servicing:  855-265-4038

More from the Department of Education:  www.studentaid.ed.gov/publicservice
More details and opportunity to ask Heather during upcoming Free Public Service Loan Forgiveness Webinars.

*Note for all clergy, rabbis, priests, imams, preachers, pastors, ayatollahs, and others: New language included in these forms indicates the Department of Education is taking the position that an individual borrower’s employment does not qualify when the borrower is employed in a nonprofit organization and their job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing. Heather will post more analysis and information about this recent development ASAP.

Check out Heather Jarvis' blog at askheatherjarvis.com for more timely, helpful information on the public service student loan forgiveness program.




Podcast Interview: Overview of YNPN Report

Trish Tchume, director of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), National, and Amanda Pape Lenaghan, Co-chair of YNPN San Francisco Bay Area (YNPNsfba) and Deputy Director Bay Area at Taproot Foundation, were recently interviewed by the Foundation Center for the Philanthropy Front and Center blog.

They discussed the recent YNPN report Good in Theory Problems in Practice: Young professionals’ views on popular leadership development strategies. The interview provides a great overview of the findings, what was surprising in the findings, and what the findings are saying about the future leadership of the nonprofit sector.

YNPNdc: White House Seats for State of the Union Address

For several months now YNPNdc has been working with the White House Office of Public Engagement to create a dialogue between White House leaders and young nonprofit professionals. This past week YNPNdc Board Chair Carlyn Madden and YNPNdc Leadership Council member Zach Dulli were included in a panel of young leaders asked to discuss what issues they would like to see included in tonights State of the Union address. Part of what came out of that meeting was a request for the White House to provide more outreach and follow up to young professionals.

YNPNdc will be tweeting live from the White House tonight, during and after the President's speech. The White House has asked us to encourage all YNPN chapters across the country to participate in this event as well. During the speech you can engage with YNPNdc through their Twitter account @YNPNdc and with the White House via @WhiteHouse & @JonCarson44. Immediately following the speech, pose your questions to a live panel of White House senior advisers by using the hashtag #SOTU. Be sure to include @ynpndc in your message. You can also post questions via the White House’s Facebook page.  For more information or to view an enhanced version of the State of the Union address and the live streamed follow up Q&A please visit WhiteHouse.gov

The White House is excited about the work YNPN is doing and this is a great opportunity for chapters across the country to engage on a national stage.  We encourage everyone to participate in tonight's event.

Links and Hashtags:

YNPN Named a 2012 Nonprofit to Watch

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently named the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network an "Nonprofit to Watch in 2012". Citing the hiring of our first national director Trish Tchume, the Chronicle includes YNPN in a list of organizations poised to "grab the spotlight because they are charting a new course or because they have appointed new leaders."
We are certainly excited for the upcoming year as YNPN celebrates its fifteenth anniversary!
Excerpt from the article:

A new face for young nonprofit employees
The 15-year-old Young Nonprofit Professionals Network has hired its first director and full-time employee—Trish Tchume, formerly of the Building Movement Project, a nonprofit that works to strengthen social-change groups.

Read more at Philanthropy.com

YNPN => Symbol Sign

This post comes to us from the Director of YNPN National, Trish Tchume.

A few years ago I became really fascinated with the AIGA Symbol Signs.  I’m not sure what first caught my interest about them but it probably had something to do with their connection to other things I tend to be drawn to – shared meaning, simple ways of stating the complex, or pretty pictures :).

I love the idea that, because of simple human ingenuity, a Tagalog-only speaker who falls ill as she makes her way through the Denver airport would know from the white cross on a dark background in front of her that help is close by.

I’ve been involved with YNPN for several years now but my first couple of months as director of YNPN – especially my time on the road – has crystallized for me how important it is for even the most savvy among us to have clear, identifiable ways of finding and accessing what we need.  It’s clear to me that YNPN has grown to be that for many young nonprofit professionals as well as those seeking to become young nonprofit professionals.  Here’s how I know…

At this point in my directorship, I’ve spent time with chapters in Phoenix, Chicago, DC, San Francisco (twice), and at home in NYC.  In each of these places I’ve met YNPNers who’ve shared more or less the same story.  It goes something like this:

I was working for [insert small nonprofit] in [insert city/town/hamlet] and I didn’t really know anybody else in the sector there.  So I heard about YNPN and I started going to events.  I moved to [insert city/town/hamlet where we are having current conversation] a few months ago to work for [insert new small nonprofit] and I didn’t really know anyone in the sector here – but I knew about YNPN!  So I started coming to YNPN events here and now I have a community.

I’ve probably had this conversation 6 times in the past 3 months and, as dorky as it sounds, I still get chills.  I love, love, love that this beautiful little idea that a few young nonprofiteers  dreamed up around a CompassPoint conference table 15 years ago – this little idea that so many of you have grabbed onto and nurtured in your own communities – has become the symbol sign for “inroad to my local nonprofit community” for tens of thousands of young people who want to commit themselves to change wherever they land.

As you all may have noticed over the past several years (and especially over the last 12 months) the world is finally waking up to the notion that the world’s most pressing problems are too widespread, too complex to be solved by any one person, party, organization or nation.  At the same time the world is waking up to the fact that the most vibrant ideas for how to build a better world also don’t live in any one person or company or organization or government - the best ideas live amongst the people.  And those ideas emerge when you create a framework and then allow people to bring their best selves to it.  We’ve seen that everywhere from campaign house parties to the iPhone app store to Wikipedia to the Occupy Everywhere movement.  And we certainly see it in the work you do as chapters of YNPN.

That alone would get me out of bed every morning to do what I can to strengthen this national network, but the conversations that YNPN has been invited to be a part of over the past several months have reminded me that, as a network, we have an even bigger role to play.

For example, on November 15, YNPN was invited to be one of the 200 government, nonprofit and philanthropic institutions to participate in the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership. YNPN was fortunate enough to be at the table during the White House forum to think through what these different mechanisms might look like. There were a number of recommendations that emerged from the groups which will become the framework for the Initiative for Nonprofit Talent and Leadership (click here to learn more about how YOU can become involved with this initiative!) Time and again however the refrain arose: “We need on-ramps and training opportunities for the diverse array of professional emerging in the sector. We need opportunities for them to network and build connections in the field.”  It drove home for me yet again what a vital role YNPN is already playing in advancing the sector and how well-positioned we are to play this vital role for an even greater number and more diverse set of change agents.

But how do we take our work to scale while maintaining the grassroots, people-powered ethos of the network that attracted so many of us?  We have some of the answers – stronger technological infrastructure, a more robust communications strategy, clearer channels between national and amongst the chapters so that resources can be shared more readily…But what else?  How do we make sure that the best ideas from all of you are harvested?  How do we make sure that YNPN becomes the symbol sign for an even broader, more diverse array of  young people looking to make change via the social sector?

On January 25th we’ll be hosting a webinar where we’ll begin to lay out the plan for gathering answers to these questions over the coming year (more info on the webinar to come!)  but we hope you’ll share your questions and ideas with us in the meantime via the comments below, Twitter (hashtag #ynpn) or by emailing me directly at trish@ynpn.org.

I couldn’t be more excited for what we’ll build together.