YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Featured Network Post: Becoming More Than Another Resume- The Advantages of Informational Interview



This featured blog post originally appeared on YNPN Chicago's blog and was written by YNPN Chicago member Lauren Anderson.

Networking (verb)- to meet professional contacts to increase your understanding of an area, build contacts in that area, or advance your career.

Informational Interview (noun)- networking in an interview-like style. Informational interviews are advantageous over traditional networking, because you demonstrate interest and they have time to get to know you. It can be particularly helpful if you apply to their organization or they may be aware of organizations or people who are hiring or might align better with your interests.

So how do you do set up an informational interview if you don’t know anyone? Well you can’t really. I’ve tried calling organizations outright.  When you’re routed through a secretary they are very hesitant to set up an appointment for you with “anyone.”
You can find peoples’ names on the internet. If you’re crafty, you can figure out what their email address scheme is, like lastname@organization.org, and contact them directly. I’ve met a few CEOs and VPs this way, because they are the people who might actually be listed on the website.

Otherwise, make friends. Join professional networks like YNPN; get involved on a volunteer basis with an organization you’re interested in; see what people you know are doing through LinkedIn; check alumni networks from college; and go out to parties where you can actually hear what other people are saying.

When you do meet someone in your desired area or career ask them what networks they are involved in or email list-serves they subscribe to. To that effect, let me make a few other recommendations about how to initiate, conduct, and conclude an informational interview with a contact you’ve acquired.

Prior to an interview:

  • Clearly state your goals (i.e. find out about a field or learn more about how to get into their specific occupation) and what you hope they can do for you.


About the contributor:

Lauren recently completed her masters in Health Management at Columbia University in New York. Her previous experiences include developing marketing strategy for a Health Information Exchange in Michigan and conducting policy analysis for the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.Upon taking her current position as the Development Manager working on the ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety she moved to Chicago and got connected, through an informational interview, to YNPN Chicago in January 2011.

Featured Network Post: Maintaining Millennial Interest in the Nonprofit Sector

This featured blog post originally appeared on YNPN Detroit's blog and was written by YNPN Detroit board member Tammie Jones.

According to a recent New York Times article, Millennials are increasingly seeking employment with the nonprofit sector. Applications for AmeriCorps positions have almost tripled (91,399 in 2008 to 258,829 in 2010), and the number of applicants for Teach for America climbed 32% last year to a record 46,359. This is certainly exciting news for the sector and speaks to the potential of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network – both nationally and here in Detroit – to start a movement advancing social change.

There is a challenge inherent to this groundswell of interest by Millennials, though: Are nonprofits ready for them? I’m sure that every YNPN Detroit member has run across instances where the generation gap has posed a significant challenge. After all, many Boomers view Millennials to be lazy, disrespectful and self-absorbed. Meanwhile, Millennials seem to become easily frustrated with the close-mindedness of the seniors of the field.  For example, Millennials often seek to incorporate technology and social media into the daily workings of an organization, though many Boomers find such efforts unnecessary and a waste of time. This can lead to frustration on both sides. If we in the nonprofit sector don’t take steps to mitigate this generational gap, will we risk losing Millennials to other sectors?

Commongood Careers offered the following advice in the March Talent Works Monthly to nonprofit employers seeking to retain Millennials:


Continue reading at YNPN Detroit's blog.


About the author:

Tammie Jones, Co-Chair of YNPN Detroit Tammie Jones is a Council of Michigan Foundations Public Policy Fellow with The Skillman Foundation. There, she works on policy and advocacy issues impacting the Foundation’s Good Schools work, with a particular focus on assisting in the development of the citywide education infrastructure and ensuring access to high-quality schools within the Foundation’s target neighborhoods.

Prior to this position, Tammie worked for more than ten years with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Virginia, helping to establish two new locations serving a combined 400 youth members. In May 2009, Tammie completed her MBA at the University of Michigan – Ross School of Business, where she was selected by her peers to receive the Frank S. Moran Leadership Award. Tammie currently serves as an Advisory Board member for the Salvation Army, Eastern Michigan Division.

Featured Network Post: Want to change the world? Tell a good story

url.jpgImage from todaymade.com.

This featured blog post originally appeared on YNPN NYC's blog and was written by YNPN NYC board member and blogger Allison Jones

At our anniversary celebration last week our key note speaker Steve Mariotti Founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and JJ Ramberg our nonprofiteer of the year and Co-Founder of GoodSearch.com spent time sharing their experiences and paths that led them to careers in social change. Even though they work in different causes and have different backgrounds, they both shared one powerful piece of advice to changemakers: learn how to tell a story.

The importance of story telling comes up quite a bit in the nonprofit sector, especially when it comes to more externally facing professions like communications and fundraising.  However this is an important skill in all aspects of nonprofit work.  As we seek to grow and engage our supporters, employees, and communities we serve, we must  learn how to present our experiences and our work in a compelling way that draws our audience in and makes them feel connected and invested in the work we are doing. Story telling is one of the most powerful tools changemakers have, yet it’s a hard skill to master. What does it mean to tell a good story? How do I get others to tell their stories in support of our cause? How do we go from story telling to taking action?

Luckily there are resources to help you get started....

Find out about them by reading the rest of the post on YNPN NYC's blog. Photo Credit

Rockstars! We keep growing, keep evolving!

The YNPN journey is now 14 years old, and though we have evolved, we have remained true to that first initial goal - to provide professional development for young people in the nonprofit sector. From a group of young professionals gathering in a San Francisco coffee shop in 1997, YNPN now boasts a staggering 34 chapters across the nation with over 30,000 members. Additionally, we also have 13 start-up chapters working to develop into full-fledged chapters within our network.

Over the past two years, I have had the unique opportunity of working closely with YNPN chapters, monitoring their growth and providing resources and tools to enable their success. I’ve heard their tales of struggles to find board members that can be the champions to continue the work of the chapter once the first crop of founding board members move on; debating the merits of 501c3 vs. fiscal sponsorship; navigating the waters of paid membership; and building  programming that addresses the needs and interests of members.

I’d like to share with you a few recent highlights from the network of YNPN chapters around the country:

•   In Fall 2010, YNPNdc kicked of Voices of the Sector (VOTS). This was a new program that created a unique space to discuss a variety of subjects from the economic downturn and intergenerational power-sharing to nonprofit accountability, cross-sector collaboration, and nonprofit workforce diversity. To date, they have had several VOTS events with key constituents in the community.

•   In January 2011, YNPN Houston partnered with Volunteers of America and Reach to Achieve Mentoring to raise awareness for National Mentoring Month (January). They hosted several podcast interviews with young professionals to discuss the impact mentoring has had on their professional growth; hear one of the podcasts that had YNPN leaders discuss mentoring in their lives

•   A signature event for YNPN Triad (North Carolina) is the “State of the Nonprofit Sector in the Triad” event that draws a large crowd of professionals to discuss trends, challenges, and brainstorm solutions to problems occurring in the community. The next such event will be in May 2011; take a look at the last presentation given.

•   One of our newest chapters to the network, YNPN Little Rock appears to be off to a great start already. YNPN Little Rock officially kicked-off with their first event last October and already they have an impressive slate of professional development events scheduled for the coming months including speed networking, an advocacy event, and roundtable networking with nonprofit leaders from the community.

•   A chapter that is less than 2 years old, YNPN Detroit has already cemented itself as a leader in the Detroit nonprofit community by hosting several professional development events and connecting people to the numerous resources available in the city. Their Twitter feed is a must-read- full of the amazing discussion the chapter drives such as how to engage your board on development and sponsorships to tools on how to negotiate salary and benefits at your job. Their twitter handle is @ynpndetroit.

Coordinating the work of start-up chapters has been another fulfilling area of work I have supported in my time on the YNPN National board. Every month, YNPN receives notices from people across the nation (and across the globe) interested in starting a YNPN chapter in their community. Assessing their readiness to start a chapter, discussing resources individuals might use to spread the word about that start-up chapter, and helping to coordinate the first, second, or perhaps third events for that start-up chapter is a steady, slow process that can take 9 months. The process is intentional to ensure the full success of the start-up once they become full-fledged chapters.

I am constantly amazed at the speed at which YNPN is growing and all of the amazing things our chapters are doing. We may still have a long way to go before all young nonprofit professionals have a YNPN chapter to count on, but the road ahead is full of inspiring work and energetic young people leading the way.


Ese Emerhi Chair, Chapters Committee YNPN National

A note about our contributor

Ese Emerhi is a human rights activist and organizer. She is currently a consultant with the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) of The World Bank where she provides support to GDLN affiliates in fostering global knowledge sharing within the network. She is also the legislative coordinator for Maryland for Amnesty International where she educates local activists on pressing human rights abuses around the world, as well as work closely with Maryland state delegates and Congressmen to push forward progressive legislative bills. Ese currently lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.

#YNPN11: The ynpnGR Experience and "A-Ha" Moments

Each year, YNPN asks a local chapter to host the National Leaders Conference, which is an opportunity for chapter leaders around the country to learn from one another.  As the YNPN network grows, we have more and more opportunities to showcase local chapters and the innovations happening in the local nonprofit sector in regions around the country.

We've asked this year's host YNPN Grand Rapids to reflect on their experience this year as host to the YNPN network.

In September 2010, ynpnGR found out we would be hosting the YNPN National Conference in Spring 2011. The anticipation to start planning was great and many of us had more fears about the process than we were excited about hosting.  Our planning launched in November 2011 when we formed the Super Squad and excitement began to overcome our fears for how the conference would come together. We had many brown bag lunches to discuss the conference, and our Super Squad began digging into details. The dedication of the Super Squad was amazing, and although there were a few “scary” bumps in the road, they all worked together to pull the conference off in the end.

March 25 came very quickly, and before we knew it, we were all sitting around the table Saturday night saying, “Wow the conference is really over!”  All of it was worth it. ynpnGR made some new friends with local organizations, and built up a new base of members and dedicated committee members to help support successful programming throughout the year.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, we were able to see all our efforts come together, with great breakout sessions and headliners, including the amazing Innovation Series. The highlight for many of us on the Super Squad was seeing the nonprofit community and members of YNPN from across the country come together for the Nonprofit Smackdown on Friday night. The energy and excitement in the room truly proved the conference we had created was a success.

Our amazing network of YNPNers across the country supported all that the Super Squad accomplished. The energy and excitement all our chapters bring to the network is phenomenal, and bringing that energy to Grand Rapids was proof that we are not in this alone. The issues and successes our local YNPN members have been experiencing are shared with other members across the country.

Bringing the network together in our hometown has made a significant impact on our board and the programming we are going to be able to provide throughout the coming years. The support of the network has supported new energy and growth in all of our board and committee members. For that, we are truly thankful for all that hosting the YNPN National Conference was able to do for our chapter.  Even though the stress and fear about the day was high, it was well worth it in the end!!  Thank you for participating in the YNPN National Conference this year, you helped make it a success!!!

If you haven’t seen them yet, we have some pictures from the conference on our Facebook page.

Thank you!! ynpnGR Board

Any "a-ha" moments you haven't yet shared with the network? Having attended the conference- did you learn things about the local nonprofit sector in Grand Rapids that you took home to assist your own local work?
In case you missed any of the coverage of the learning at #ynpn11- here's a recap of the blog posts that were shared with the network:

AKA, the Young Social Change Network?

Once again, I left the YNPN National Conference inspired and encouraged by the energy, passion, and commitment of YNPNers to make a difference in our communities. At its core, YNPN is about creating the kind of change we want to see in the world, whether it’s a particular mission or the concept of giving back in general that motivates us. This theme appeared several times during the conference, and caused me to wonder: are we really the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, or would it be more accurate to call us the Young Social Change Movement? Is it important to us that we work for a 501(c)3 organization, or simply that we make a difference?

During the Innovation Series on Friday I was struck by the organizations that talked about how they purposefully set their business up as a for-profit venture in order to best support the nonprofit sector.  Tommy Allen, who kicked off the series, is a community activist and editor of Rapid Growth Media, but his paid job is in the for profit sector. Elemental Media, who promotes online stories of the good work accomplished by nonprofits, stated they chose a for-profit model because they didn’t want to be competing for funding with those they serve. Cool People Care also chose the for-profit path because they wanted to be, as he stated it, “collaborative, not competitive”.

I see this trend in other capacity-building organizations and support services for the sector. I’m wondering if this is simply a case of for-profit entrepreneurs getting involved in cause work or whether it’s telling us something bigger about our sector’s capacity to support and promote itself. I’m not suggesting that all missions and causes can be better served in a for-profit model; the nonprofit sector serves some of the most vulnerable populations whose best interests should not be determined by for-profit shareholders. However, when it comes to serving ourselves, should the nonprofit business model be our first choice, or even second?

One highlight of the preliminary results of the YNPN National Survey tells us that although only 34% of us are committed to working in the nonprofit sector, 56% of us must have a social mission to what we do, regardless of the sector. Another 29% were unsure whether they would need a social mission, but only 15% stated that it was not an important factor in where they work. In these results, YNPNers have prioritized mission over tax code, the end results achieved over the means by which they were achieved.

In the not so distant past, I have been quick to reject the idea that the nonprofit model doesn’t serve us well. It’s the funding dynamics, I can hear myself say, or it’s the leadership structures, and the restrictions that people have interpreted too conservatively on nonprofits’ right to advocate and lobby. I firmly believe these issues present barriers, and struggle with how we can address the inequities in the system. However, I’m starting to also struggle with how we are defining nonprofit work. It seems the similarities between a small grassroots nonprofit and the design platform business that allows them to tell their stories are much greater than that grassroots nonprofit and St. Anthony’s Hospital, Tulane University, or the National Football League.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts, YNPNers: when it comes to the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, how central does the nonprofit element remain for you as the lines blur between sectors?


A note about our contributor: As Executive Director, Lydia McCoy has led the Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition’s efforts to promote vaccination through education and advocacy since 2007. Lydia previously worked as Capital Campaign Coordinator for The Gathering Place- a homeless women’s shelter in Denver- and has experience working in fund development and program management for art education, public radio, and child welfare nonprofits in New Orleans and Denver. Lydia has a BA in Political Science from Tulane University and Master of Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Recently, she has served on the Strategic Planning Committee for Regis University’s MNM program, the Leadership Advisory Council for the Colorado Nonprofit Association, was a Fellow with Social Venture Partners Denver, and participated in the El Pomar Nonprofit Executive Leadership Program. She currently sits on the YNPN National Board, Governor’s Vaccine Advisory Committee for Colorado, on the Board of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, and is past President of YNPN Denver. She also enjoys the occasional onomatopoeia. Pow!

Beyond Enthusiastic

To my fellow young nonprofit professionals…

Has someone ever complimented you on your enthusiasm, fresh perspective, or energy?  It’s happened to me – a lot.

Did it seem like that person was really just commenting on your age – speaking in code that you are young? I think that’s the case – a lot.

So, when colleagues asked me about the 2011 Conference of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, I was slow to speak.  I didn’t want to talk about the event as exciting or youthful (even though that would be true).

Instead, I described the conference as bursting with resources!

And, that’s why I love young nonprofit professionals.  We are so resourceful!

The 2011 conference demonstrates that we know how to:

  • Transform a theatre into a convention center
  • Develop a stellar program, busting at the seams with young leaders
  • Leverage community partnerships for smart sponsorships
  • Create real value with free tools, like social networking and blogging
  • Host a warm, engaging event in a cold city

I’m grateful to the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network leadership and the 2011 conference organizers.  They’ve reminded me that the best thing about being a talented young professional is not my enthusiasm but my resourcefulness.
Want to continue to cultivate your own resourcefulness?  Check out my three live blog posts from the conference:

What do you think?  What words do you use to describe young professionals - beyond enthusiastic?  Please leave a comment with your idea!


JESSICA JOURNEY is a nonprofit professional, thriving in the Indianapolis community.  She has more than five years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and philanthropy in the fields of higher education, health, and human services.  Jessica’s background includes annual fund, communications, constituent management, and grants.

Grabbing A Fistful Of Salt

Next Wednesday marks the 71st anniversary of the Dandi March. On April 6th, 1930, Mohandas K. Gandhi completed a 24-day, 250-mile journey from Sabarmati to Dandi, India, raised a fistful of salty mud into the air and pronounced, "With this I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire."

The Salt March is remembered as an act of great civil disobedience - which it definitely was - but I'd like to argue that the Salt March was also a great reminder for the people of India. A reminder that an essential building block of daily life, largely inaccessible, was actually well within reach. A reminder that a staple of sustainability, taxed beyond the affordability of most, didn't have to be. It was a reminder that the salt was already there, on Indian shores.

For nearly 15 years, YNPN has shared a similar story with a certain force, born of truth and love. Yes, at a local level, our individual chapters represent a place to connect, learn and grow with your colleagues working for community benefit organizations. But at a macro-level, YNPN has always been about equipping and empowering young people to lead and succeed - work that is grounded in the belief that everyone has something to offer wherever they find themselves in their career. In other words, at its core, YNPN's mission is about reminding folks that the salt is already embedded in their shores.

This past weekend was an amazing experience for me and the 200 other young people that converged upon the Furniture City to listen, share and celebrate. Inspirational sessions, innovative speakers and plenty of, ahem, informal networking solidified my belief that our generation is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. I am confident of this fact because the fire that fueled Gandhi's 250-mile march is the same fire that fuels our national board, your local chapter's board and every single one of the 30,000 YNPN members across the country.

The raw passion, energy and vision required to lead our communities through this decade and well beyond is limitless among and across our network. So, let us begin boiling the mud down to salt - ignoring the advice to "learn the ropes" or "wait our turn." Let us continue to hone our skill sets so we can lead, manage and grow our organizations with excellence. Let us shake the foundations of outdated 20th Century Empire thinking.

And let this be a reminder that the salt is already ours.



"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."

Mahatma Gandhi

YNPN Twin Cities' Blog, a model for implementing a great idea

YNPN Twin Cities board members Adaobi Okolue and Chris Oien shared best practices learned from their chapter's blog. I jokingly tweeted that I should write a blog post about their blog. Adaobi and Chris's presentation was informative to anyone interested in starting a group blog, but it was also a great story about taking a good idea and rallying a group of people to implement it.

How to build buy in

YNPN Twin Cities spent a lot of time and effort generating support from the board before launching their blog. They addressed capacity and technology concerns with:

  • One-on-one conversations
  • In-person trainings about the blogging platform
  • A schedule of blog writing responsibility that is manageable. (Board members are expected to write a post once every few months, and they know well in advance when their post is expected.)

Lesson Learned: Invest time at the beginning of a project to address concerns and build personal connections with your stakeholders.

Setting goals

From the beginning, YNPN Twin Cities was clear about what the blog is and what the blog is not. The YNPN Twin Cities blog is not:

  • A fundraising effort
  • An event promotion mechanism

Lesson Learned: For an idea to succeed, it needs a clear goal. And a clear goal cancels out other potential goals, even when they're worthy.

Making it work

YNPN Twin Cities has an arsenal of tools that help its blog run smoothly and successfully:

  • The blog's posts are assigned months in advance. Authors know exactly when they're expected to contribute.
  • Each week, posts are submitted, edited and published on a set schedule.
  • Topics for blog posts are assigned. (There are "open topic" weeks as well.)
  • The "blog bible" provides extensive documentation.

Lesson Learned: Create and document a manageable structure that helps a good idea become a great idea.


Launching the next good idea

Not satisfied with having an awesome blog and presenting about it at the YNPN national conference, YNPN Twin Cities is including new voices in their blog beyond YNPN-TC board members.

Lesson Learned: Embrace the next phase of your great idea!

Language of Leadership

Denise Stein, Executive Director at Art of Leadership in Detroit spoke yesterday about the power of language. Many of us working in the nonprofit sector have found ourselves, on more than one occasion, facing barriers and conflicts that make it difficult for us to reach the goals we have set for ourselves and/or our organizations. As a result, sometimes, we may hear ourselves complaining to friends or co-workers. In my mind, the truth is- not all of those complaints are unjustified. In fact, I would argue that many of them probably are justified. Sometimes you have every right to be frustrated and often getting those frustrations out can be a very healthy and positive way to help yourself move forward. The problem, however, is that when repeated, those complaints can actually be much more powerful than we may realize.

Sometimes when talking about our causes, our words focus on the barriers and conflicts, a.k.a, the problems that need to be addressed. If we find ourselves spending more time talking about the problem as opposed to the solution, we can really hold ourselves back from moving forward. If the status quo needs to be changed, we should focus our language around our plans and goals for the future instead of the problem(s).

Denise said, “The language of complaint tells us, and others, what we cannot stand. The language of leadership/commitment tells us, and others what we stand for.” We can help reframe our own mindsets by focusing our language around what we want to see, instead of focusing on what we see but don’t like. By focusing on our goals and commitments, we empower ourselves to act on those commitments, instead of getting lost in frustration.

We have all heard the phrase ‘think outside of the box.’ In fact, it has probably become a little cliché at this point. No one really wants to think like everyone else. We all want to think of ourselves as ‘out of the box’ thinkers, at least, I do. An important thing to remember is that ‘thinking outside of the box’ doesn’t always refer to a collective cultural box that we all subscribe to. ‘Thinking outside of the box’ doesn’t always mean thinking differently from this group or that person. Often, it is our own boxes that we need to think outside of. More often than not, it is our own constraints and perceived limitations that we need to branch away from.

By reshaping the way that we talk and learning to constantly challenge our own ‘inside of the box’ thinking, we can position ourselves to make a much bigger impact in our communities. Never underestimate the power that the words we use can have on our own perceptions. And learn to take mental notes of our own repetitious behaviors. If we learn what ‘in the box thinking’ really looks like for ourselves, we might actually have a much better shot at learning how to think outside of it. And if we constantly remind ourselves of what we're working for, we will find ourselves empowered by motivation, instead of feeling burnt out and/or overwhelmed.