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 email@example.com.
I couldn’t be more excited for what we’ll build together.
Young Nonprofit Professionals Network recently surveyed over 1,100 emerging nonprofit leaders across the country. Conducted in Spring 2011, YNPN’s National Voice Survey tested several interventions targeting leadership development in the nonprofit sector. The full report was launched in the Fall of 2011 at Independent Sector’s NGEN conference.
For additional information about Good in Theory, Problems in Practice, please contact: Trish Tchume, Director, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network firstname.lastname@example.org; (917) 300.YNPN
YNPN's 2007 Report: Stepping up or Stepping Out
In 2007, YNPN surveyed its then 10,000 members around the country to find out whether young potential leaders were leaving or remaining in their jobs, what preparations and support they needed to take on greater leadership roles, and how to best develop the next generation of leaders to replace the baby boomers. Some 1,657 people completed the survey. Read the full report.
It’s not news that the job of nonprofit Executive Director is challenging and demanding. Often filling roles that would be several staff positions if the funding allowed, Executive Directors are expected to master a broad set of skills in order to effectively lead their organization and ensure its sustainability. However, we are learning that in order to meet those demands an increasing number of Executive Directors are employing strategies to share leadership within their organization in order to distribute responsibility and to develop staff bench strength.
In Daring to Lead 2011 Brief 2: Inside the Executive Director Job, CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation highlight this growing trend toward shared leadership in the nonprofit sector. A collaborative approach to leading an organization can range from engaging staff in the responsibility of decision-making to replacing the singular executive role with several executive-level leaders. Defined broadly, the vast majority of the respondents in the Daring to Lead study described their leadership style as shared or inclusive of others within the organization. As a result, the report recommends executives, boards, and funders consider support for operationalizing shared leadership within the sector.
These findings are supported by YNPN’s 2011 National Voice Initiative, which surveyed over 1,100 emerging nonprofit leaders across the country. Conducted in Spring 2011 with a full report release expected in October 2011, YNPN’s National Voice Survey tested several interventions targeting leadership development in the nonprofit sector. The findings demonstrate that there a growing number of nonprofit organizations experiencing positive change through shared leadership. YNPN asked young leaders their perspective on moving away from traditional models of the Executive Director role by decentralizing responsibility and flattening the hierarchy. Although only a small percentage of respondents had experienced such changes in their organization, a significant majority of those respondents reported the changes were effective in building more sustainable and collaborative organizations. This positive response was significantly higher than any other intervention tested in the survey.
The results of the Daring to Lead and YNPN’s National Voice Initiative point us in the direction of an inclusive approach to organizational leadership, one that does not depend on one leader or structure but rather a team of leaders and a nimble organization ready to seize opportunities and address challenges. This approach not only relieves some of the burden placed on Executive Directors to be many things to many people, but also creates opportunities for young leaders in the organization to emerge. One of the hallmarks of the younger generation is a tendency toward collaboration, and this inclination will serve the nonprofit sector well as these young professionals take on Executive roles. Regardless of whether the structure is overtly nontraditional or simply inclusive of staff engagement, it is likely the nonprofits of the future will be employing this community-minded approach. The inclusivity that has made this sector so appealing to young people will be applied to our internal organizational models, resulting in a built-in development structure that values the talents and strengths of the team.
This post comes to us from Lydia McCoy, Danielle Holly, and Dan Dobin- YNPN National board members and members of YNPN National's National Voice Committee, the team preparing for the upcoming release of a report on leadership. Look for YNPN’s full report on emerging leadership and tested leadership strategies this November, and visit http://ynpn.org for more about engaging the next generation of nonprofit leadership.
First, I wanted to bring you all up to speed on the haps of my first few weeks. Here are some highlights:
- September 13 - turned the YNPN Board Chair reigns over to the capable hands of interim Board Chair, Kim Caldwell
- September 19 - began transitioning into the YNPN Director position as I wrapped up my former position at the Building Movement Project.
- September 22 - got to spend some QT with the dynamic board of YNPN Phoenix chapter while I was out in Arizona for the National Conference on Citizenship. (ps - Have you heard about YNPN Pheonix's annual Tour de Phoenix? It's dope. Check it out!)
- October 1 - on my first official, official day as YNPN Director, I had the good fortune of being at the root of YNPN civilization - San Francisco Bay Area - and met with the YNPN SFBA board. Here's what I came away with: YNPN SFBA is a powerhouse. The 2012 YNPN National Conference that they are hosting is not to be missed. You should be there. More to come.
- October 6 - YNPN got a shoutout in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Gladys Tchume got something to put on the fridge next to my 8th grade soccer certificate. Big day on many levels.
- October 7-8 - spent two days in Baltimore visioning, reflecting, workplanning, storming, norming, performing, transforming and all other manner of gerund with the YNPN National Board at our biannual board meeting (graciously hosted for the 4th year in a row by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.) Exciting and inspiring. Big things to come, friends.
- The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network has always played a critical role in developing and retaining talent in the sector. As the challenges facing society deepen, more and more people both within our membership and outside of our membership are looking to YNPN to play an even greater role in these areas.
- As we move forward, we not only want to continue to provide the professional development and networking opportunities that have been our hallmark for the past 15 years, but we want to start shaping a deeper common narrative for our network and the impact that we want to have in the world - What will it take to move towards the more just and equitable society we all hope to acheive? What skills, values, relationships and practices do we need to develop as young professionals in this sector to be able to work towards this more equitable world AND sustain ourselves for the long haul? How can we leverage the strength of our network to influence broader conversations about what the sector can do to achieve it's social mission?
- We'll be applying our best thinking and strategizing to the issue of network infrastructure! As recently as last week, lively discussions about revisiting our tax status were bubbling on this list about revisiting our tax status - c3 v. c6. This question is part of an exciting, much larger conversation that will be a central focus for the coming year. The current YNPN network model works and, for the most part, works well. But we have the power to be so much more nimble, connected and impactful as a network once we have greater clarity about the relationship between national and chapters, once have a better sense of when, how and how often we communicate, and once we have the infrastructure both in terms of technology and in terms of process to support a stronger model. Over the next 12 months, our chief goal will be to gather input from each of you through various channels (including in-person forums held in cities across the network!) in order to shape the best model for our network infrastructure moving forward. I'm couldn't be more excited to see what we'll come up with together!
- YNPN will have a stronger voice in sector-wide conversations! In just a couple of weeks, we will be releasing our second-ever National Voice report based on data provided by all of you and your members. Over the next year, I will be carrying the message of this report (and the message that YNPN can and should be at the table for sector-wide conversations) to conferences, panels, online chats and one-on-one meetings with stakeholders. As you heard in last Friday's email from our National Voice committee, YNPN National will also be providing YOU and YOUR CHAPTERS with the materials and training necessary for you to be able to advocate at the local level for stronger leadership development across the sector.
We will be able to provide stronger support for chapters! We'll be continuing with the webinars, chapter level calls and the chapter engagement plan that connects you directly with reps from the National board. But this year, you'll see added benefits like:
- new and improved features of the annual conference
- deeper, direct engagement with affiliate chapters
- a new chapter levels guide, enhanced based on your feedback
- better data collection and dissemination to help you understand the network and your chapter's place in it
- as well as increased offerings on the web platform (like the new intranet and a revival of the best practices resource center)
The report highlights some of the biggest challenges facing the nonprofit sector today and provides insight into how young professionals and the organizations they work for are working to address these issues.
We can’t thank local YNPN chapters enough for all the support they’ve provided in making this report reflect the unique perspectives and innovative ideas of YNPN members across the country. Over the past few months, five of our local chapters have conducted focus groups to bounce the high-level report findings off members who experience these issues every day on the ground. Members from across the country sounded off on the hot button issues of leadership development, diversity, new organizational structures, nonprofit compensation and the changing state of the sector.
These conversations, led by YNPN’s chapter leaders in Denver, Cincinnati, Twin Cities, Washington DC and Houston, bring the report findings to life, and we wanted to give you a preview of what our members are saying.
Why do you think some nonprofits embrace leadership development and others don't? Is it simply an issue of resources or are there other reasons why organizations aren't taking it on?
“Conversations on leadership change are not happening between those in power and those who are not in power. “ - YNPN member in D.C.
“What about the other way around? Do young people have plans to approach supervisors and others and talk about how to develop? I feel like my workplace would be supportive of those conversations. It has to be two ways!” - YNPN member in Twin Cities
When asked to hypothetically play the role of a philanthropist or ED and allocate a part of your budget, offering more competitive compensation was far and away the winner among all other categories. Why is this so important?
“Nonprofit people ARE competitive and results-driven and want their hard work reflected. “ – YNPN member in Cincinnati
“It doesn’t always need to be money. I think that it is sometimes extra vacation or shorter hours as compensation.” - YNPN member in Houston
What do you think are the biggest benefits/biggest drawbacks of changing traditional organizational structures?
“Spreading the director responsibilities makes that position more manageable and allows several peoples' strengths to come together.” – YNPN member in Denver
“I've worked in the linear style organizations and there was a lot of passing the buck- where no one had to have an answer but anyone could have the answer. We were always scrambling to run smoothly.” - YNPN member in Houston
Most survey respondents reported that the organizations they worked for had a diverse staff, but not at the management level. What are your thoughts on diversity in the sector?
“It's treating an adaptive issue as a technical issue. I worked at a place that had a checklist of things like ‘Do we have decorations of different cultures in our office?’. What it should be about is busting through your cultural paradigm.” -YNPN member from Twin Cities
“There are definitely more women in nonprofit sector than in the corporate sector, but there are still more men in leadership roles.” – YNPN member in Denver
Although many respondents were committed to ensuring their careers focused on social impact, only a portion of those were committed to the nonprofit sector. What are the implications for the sector?
“Why actually work at a nonprofit if I can make an impact in these other roles [nonprofit volunteer or board member] and not deal with negatives of nonprofit employment?” – YNPN member in Cincinnati
“We need to anticipate a shift that breaks down the line between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. That means finding ways for the for-profit model to be more responsible, and for nonprofits, looking toward new revenue models.” - YNPN member from Twin Cities
What are your ideas on how young nonprofit professionals can help solve these issues? Do you agree or disagree with the reactions of our members?
Read the YNPN’s 2011 National Voice Report A special thanks to YNPN’s local chapters in Denver, Cincinnati, Twin Cities, Washington DC and Houston for running focus groups and sharing the conversations with the network.
As the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) prepares to mark its 15 year anniversary in 2012, the organization hits another milestone- the hiring of its first National Director. Trish Tchume, longtime YNPN member and current YNPN National board member, has been named to the newly developed position.
Growth and the State of the Network Over the last 15 years, YNPN has grown to over 30 local chapters with more than 30,000 members. Given demographic and generational shifts as well as the growth of the sector overall, the work of YNPN has become more and more important. As the network has developed, it has become an essential networking and learning conduit for young professionals in the sector with an exceptionally broad local reach into cities and regions across the country. Most importantly, many local chapters serve as change-agents, improving the caliber of work within their local nonprofit communities.
With the addition of a director, the national organization will be better positioned to focus on developing the organizational infrastructure necessary to strengthen the network, grow its programming support for chapters, pursue deeper partnerships with other national organizations, advocate for young professionals and continue to push wider conversations about sector innovation. (View the National Director Position Description.)
“YNPN’s growth throughout the social sector over the last fifteen years is an appealing example of scale. To achieve improved outcomes for vulnerable children and families, the social sector requires greater numbers of high-performing, diverse talent that can be networked and deployed throughout our sector. We believe in YNPN’s potential to continue to grow on a national scale and to serve as one of many key talent pipelines for the social sector. I am confident in Trish Tchume’s leadership as the first National Director and thrilled to have YNPN as a partner in our work,” said Rafael López, Associate Director of Talent and Leadership Development at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
A Visionary Leader and a Committed Member The hiring committee, comprised of chapter representatives and YNPN National board members from around the country selected Trish Tchume to fill the newly developed position. Ms. Tchume has been a long-time YNPN member, committed national board member, and an exceptional young sector leader.
“As a board member of YNPN Orlando for nearly three years, I have been so impressed with the level of passion and professionalism displayed in every volunteer member of the YNPN National team. When I learned that YNPN was seeking its first full-time National Director, I knew I had to be involved in this process,“ said Shari Orr, a chapter representative involved in the hiring. “Trish Tchume’s vast nonprofit experience will certainly prove invaluable to our organization, and to the nonprofit sector as a whole. I am excited to work under her leadership!”
Ms. Tchume most recently served as Director of Civic Engagement for the Building Movement Project following her position as Director of Training for Idealist.org. In 2009, she was selected for the inaugural cohort of the Independent Sector NGEN Fellows and continues to serve on the advisory board for the NGen program. Through her years of involvement with YNPN, Ms. Tchume has been motivated by the limitless possibilities that come from having young leaders pool their time, talents and relationships to build a stronger sector.
Reflecting on her involvement with YNPN and her selection as the organization’s first director, Ms. Tchume said, “I’m humbled and amazed when I think about the journey YNPN has taken from that small group of young professionals in San Francisco who decided to turn to each other for support, to becoming the organization we are today with over 30 chapters and 30,000 members across the country. Our numbers have grown exponentially, but one of the things that has always touched me about YNPN is the fact that our culture of mutual support and generosity remains the same. It’s a beautiful legacy to be a part of and I couldn’t be more proud to have the opportunity to be the person to carry that legacy into this next stage of YNPN’s journey.”
“Having Trish as our first National Director brightens the future of the network and the sector as a whole,” Kim Caldwell, YNPN National Board Vice Chair said. “We will be able to more effectively harness the power and creativity of our vast network to make meaningful progress towards the better world we seek to create. The network is already strong; Trish’s focus and accountability will only make us stronger.”
Haven't had the chance to meet Trish yet? See her video introduction below!
Thank You for 15 Years of Impact in the Nonprofit Sector We are excited about the future of YNPN and believe with added staff capacity at the national level, we’ll be better able to serve chapters, advocate on behalf of the network, and build a stronger presence nationally. We stand on the shoulders of those who have served YNPN before us and we stand together with chapter leaders across the country working to build a stronger nonprofit sector.
We are so excited to continue this 15 year journey together!
The following guest post comes from two founding members of YNPN Cleveland, Katie Artzner and Kari Mirkin. Both currently serve on the chapter's steering committee and wanted to share some perspective on YNPN Cleveland's recent work.
Is it the dreaded snowbelt season? The fact that we don’t get a shot at the Stanley Cup? Is it some other factor beyond our control? When we asked young nonprofit professionals if they have ever considered leaving their home base of Cleveland, Ohio for the sake of their career, 82% said yes.
Ok, first things first – the Cleveland caricature persists: A rusting, hollowed-out metropolis wearing plaid-on-plaid with white bucks, the Cuyahoga River aflame in the background. In the foreground, residents hold the candles of bitterness over bad sports breakups. It’s an old but resilient story – not the kind of thing you shake overnight.
So, when we at YNPN Cleveland wrote the newly-released report, Building a Career in Nonprofit Cleveland: Focus on the Nonprofit Identity, we knew we’d encounter high numbers associated with geographic dissatisfaction. We also hypothesized, though, that geography alone would be a chimera; that if certain flagging aspects within the sector were recognized and improved upon, the entire outlook of working here could change. That’s because if Cleveland’s got one truly enduring quality, it’s the capacity for change.
Founded in 2009, YNPN Cleveland is an emerging chapter, and we wanted to learn more about the working lives of our chapter members. Our recent report is based on a member survey we initiated and followed by a series of focus group sessions. I surmise that many of report’s major findings will resonate in Detroit, in LA and elsewhere, which is why you find this article on the national blog.
Let’s start with the broad strokes. No surprise, for instance, that we found Cleveland’s emerging nonprofit professionals to be eager for a challenge and well-educated (97% have a 4-year or post-grad degree). Another basic theory proven true: they are, by and large, attracted to the sector by a commitment to a cause or by a desire to “give back” to their community.
Nonprofit – that means you don’t get paid, right?
But what exactly IS the nonprofit job? Although the idea of working “for a cause” is typically ascribed to nonprofit work, the general public does not necessarily see the sector for its many disparate facets – world-class orchestras, billion-dollar private foundations, complex fundraising strategies, sliding-scale healthcare services. On several occasions I’ve been compelled to clarify that our chapter’s mission is not (solely) about promoting voluntarism; that our members generally seek for their nonprofit careers the same opportunities for advancement, training and benefits as their for-profit counterparts. So – is this misperception a marketing failure?
Are we so stratified in our goals that an over-arching “nonprofit identity” is simplistic?
Basically – is it drastic to say that the nonprofit sector has identity issues? Indeed, the low notes of an identity crisis are detectable in our survey; some of our respondents did not self-identify as nonprofit professionals, opting instead to describe themselves principally by subsector – as social workers, educators, etc. How important is it, anyway, that we define and promote a nonprofit identity? A recent article on the ASU Lodestar Center Blog points to the value of “sectorness” in providing a unified voice, for instance in the areas of advocacy and in increasing the professionalism of the field.
The ‘Swiss Army knife’ of careers?
Our survey found that while diversity of responsibility was rated as one of the main draws of the nonprofit career, job titles vary widely from position to position, making advancement across the sector a challenge. One organization’s program associate, for instance, is another organization’s project coordinator.
By focusing on skills rather than job titles when crafting their resumes, emerging professionals might have a better shot at transitioning from subsector to subsector, should the opportunity arise. Cleveland’s nonprofit leaders and university programs, for their part, could engage in an inspired collaboration to define the sector’s workforce skills by developing a taxonomy that could guide existing professionals on their career paths, help HR departments align titles with skillsets, and assist newly graduating students in understanding where their nonprofit career might lead.
And speaking of skills – formal training, mentoring and career goal-setting were the top 3 opportunities that survey respondents wished to see when asked about career development. Correspondingly, a low number reported that their current jobs offer such opportunities. If cash for training staff is not in the cards for some nonprofits, our paper suggests that employers consider flexible work schedules, allowing employees to pursue their own career advancement opportunities without having to take vacation days to do so.
Advanced degrees in nonprofit management are on the rise amid younger workers, and some of our focus group participants noted their ideas are not always taken seriously by their non-degreed co-workers and more-experienced managers. Since most survey respondents reported being employed in a nonprofit organization for under 5 years, we believe that this presents employers with an excellent opportunity to take steps toward instituting formal, in-house mentoring opportunities to bridge the gap between employees who are heavy on education but light on experience.
Further research into Cleveland’s nonprofit sector vs. other regions could clarify and build upon some of the survey findings that make up this report, but we hope our paper will generate some lively dialogue, filled with suggestions and ideas on how to move forward from here. One of the first solid initiatives to arise from this paper will be YNPN Cleveland’s launch of a formal nonprofit mentor program. We will begin accepting applications later this fall, with the goal of connecting interested chapter members to mid-career nonprofit professionals in their desired field or job type.
And while it’s anybody’s guess as to why some of Cleveland’s best and brightest might be considering a move elsewhere, anyone who’s visited Cleveland these days knows that Burning River is just really good beer.
About the authors:
Katie Artzner has a Master’s Degree from Kent State in Library and Information Science, and her background in public service has led her to embrace nonprofit work full time.
Kari Mirkin received her Master in Nonprofit Organizations degree from Case Western Reserve University in 2009. Her role with YNPN involves developing future nonprofit leaders in the region and promoting nonprofit work as a viable career choice.
YNPN members are invited to take advantage of discounts and scholarships for Independent Sector's Annual Conference and the NGen Pre-Conference program. NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now strengthens the capacity of the sector's young leaders to contribute to addressing our society's most significant challenges now and over time. Over the last three years, more than 400 emerging leaders have participated and their passion, insight, and commitment to the future of the nonprofit and philanthropic community have made this one of the premier events for under-40 leaders.
Scholarship opportunities are available for leaders age 40 to attend both the main conference and the NGEN programs. For an application, email email@example.com.
By attending NGen you will receive 1.5 days of programming including:
- Access to a high-energy speed networking event
- Free entry to the NGen Dinner featuring the founder and CEO of Change.org, Ben Rattray
- Leadership coaching and professional development workshops
- A seat at the top-rated Ambassadors Luncheon that pairs emerging leaders with seasoned nonprofit and foundation executives for a meal and mentoring.
Independent Sector’s NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now pre-conference program, October 29-October 30 at the Swissôtel in Chicago!
Registration for the pre-conference is $90 if you sign up before September 16.
NGen compliments the programming of the 2011 Independent Sector Annual Conference, and YNPN Chicago/National members receive special partner rates to the main conference- use code YNPNCH (for YNPN Chicago members) OR YNPNNAT (for other YNPN members around the country) when you register.
This guest blog post comes to us from the authors of the newly published Nonprofit 101 book edited by Darian Rodriguez Heyman. This resource comes from one of the book’s contributors Tori O’Neal-McElrath
As much as you might want to believe that grants are awarded simply due to the fit of the program and the excellence of the application, it simply isn’t true. In fact in our experience the odds of getting a grant that you send in without contacting the foundation are about 5-10%. Just as in individual (and all!) fundraising, developing relationships is critical. There are people at these foundations, called program officers, who are directly responsible for deciding who gets money and who doesn’t. They care deeply about the work they are funding, and consider it an advantage to be able to scope out potential grantees. In person meetings with program officers are ideal, but even a short phone call with a grant manager or administrator can still yield the basic information you need, as well as getting your name in the mind of someone at the foundation.
Sometimes these initial conversations can save you valuable time in applying for a grant program that was not a fit—always do your homework on their funding goals ahead of time! But often, they are valuable knowledge gathering sessions: use the call or meeting to identify their key priorities and desired language, which many times cannot be found on their website; figure out which of your programs or initiatives is the best fit, and determine how much money you should request. Finally, go out on a limb and ask if they would be willing to preview your LOI (Letter of Intent) or proposal before your official submission. This will give them a sense of ownership over your request and provide you with valuable feedback. Start today by calling the offices of your top foundation prospect and seeing if you can get on a relevant program officer’s schedule.
- Read more about Nonprofit 101 and check out their resources.
- Each week- the blog features a “tip of the week” - well worth following for quick bites of helpful information and advice.
Ms. O’Neal- McElrath is currently the director of development for the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 21 years in various management and consulting roles for both organizations and foundations focused on women and girls, health and community clinics, and social justice.
This featured blog post originally appeared on YNPN Chicago's Blog and was written by YNPN Chicago board member Aaron House.
Serving on an ALL-VOLUNTEER board means something very different than serving on a traditional board. It means you’re accountable. It means you’re the workhorse. It means the big ideas you share during monthly discussions might just end up right back in your lap.
“That’s a wonderful suggestion… I’ll write that down as an action item for you this month.”
This is really what happens; they show up in the board meeting minutes in red- your name next to them.
The first time it happens you’re often not sure what to make of it.
“Um.. well, I was just saying that was something we should consider.”
“No no. We think it’s just a smashing great idea. Fan-Tas-Tic. We can’t wait to see what you put together to present next month”
“I’m sorry, to present?
And then it happens- you find yourself talking in italics. Not sure how to get out of it.
Wanting to say, “I’m really busy this month, I don’t have time to do all the prerequisite research required to pull this off, to put together a proper presentation, to make this idea into an actual, well actual reality. I was just talking about it in an abstract sense, as something our organization should do eventually, once we have some additional resources and capacity (maybe if you just keep talking and using board code words like “capacity” you’ll get out of it… you’re thinking of working the word “silo” into your next sentence). This isn’t something we want to have a false start with, you know, it’s something we want to do right from the get-go, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m, well, where we’re… taking on… challenge… board responsibility… um… mentality… Silo!”
You think this all through in your two-second pause, including the rebuttal.
“So you want somebody else to run with this one, huh? You think their time isn’t as valuable, do you? You think they should be your little worker bees, huh huh? You want to just come here and talk and talk and not have any responsibilities outside of the board room?”
You keep beating yourself up, including other random things that generally make you feel guilty; like that second hot dog you ate at lunch today (extra ketchup).
You hear the response in your head, it’s a bit silly and dramatic, but you don’t want to let your fellow board members think you aren’t up to the challenge. That maybe you’re just hear to round out an already pretty impressive resume, that you’re trying to skate by without doing any heavily lifting.
SO instead you say...
(read on at YNPN Chicago's Blog)
About the author: Aaron is a long time resident of Chicago, currently working as the Training Manager at the University of Chicago's central office URA (University Research Administration). He believes in the power of words and clear communication.