YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Attention: YNPNers seeking Rockstar status

YNPN National is excited to announce a discount for YNPN members across the country on the just released How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar e-book by top nonprofit bloggers Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris.

They have co-authored the first book of its kind to offer career advice beyond just getting your foot in the door of a nonprofit organization. The book is a collection of Trista and Rosetta’s advice and lessons learned- and is certain to be a helpful resource to a young nonprofit professional looking to get to the next level. It is an engaging read, full of specific tips and engaging anecdotes about Trisha and Rosetta as well as other young professionals.

Synopsis from their website:

Do you feel stuck in your nonprofit career? Unsure how to take that next step? How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar is an accessible, do-it-yourself map of how to navigate the nonprofit sector and gives you the tools that you need to move from entry level to leadership. This book is designed for professionals who want to build meaningful and rewarding nonprofit careers. How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar is based on the authors’ experiences as well as interviews with nonprofit rockstars who have supercharged their careers. You’ll learn how to develop meaningful nonprofit experience, build a strong network, establish a strong personal brand, achieve the elusive work/life balance, and move on up in your career.

YNPN members receive a lifetime discount on the e-book version at http://www.e-junkie.com/shop/product/442001.php. Members can use the code YNPN to save $5 off the retail price.

Looking to take your leadership to the next level?

If you are committed to nonprofits, ready for a new challenge, and want to help lead the YNPN movement, we encourage you to apply here by September 27 for a two-year term (Jan. 1, 2011 - Dec. 31, 2012) with the YNPN National Board.

We are a working board, helping to steer the course of YNPN's growth, national presence, committees, programs, and activities. We are looking particularly for people with skills and experience in:

  • strategy and organization development
  • familiarity with organizations comprised of geographically diverse chapters
  • advocacy and/or marketing and public relations
  • financial oversight
  • fundraising (foundations, individuals, sponsorships)
  • technology

Most importantly, we are seeking people who are passionate about the YNPN movement, are committed and follow through on their word, and are excellent project and volunteer managers. We also want to continue to diversify the board, not only in terms of race, gender etc., but also in terms of professions, geography, and involvement with YNPN chapters.

Below is a link to the board application, which will give you more information about the opportunities and responsibilities that come with National Board membership and the complete process to apply. This is an exciting time for the organization and board members will benefit from incredible professional and personal development opportunities. We hope you will consider joining us!

Link to the application:
https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dFVsdVlOZGxBeXBfMnByWURwQ01zUEE6MA#gid=0


If you have questions about the application process or about National Board service, please direct them to applications@ynpn.org.
Also, if you know of individuals who may be good candidates for the national board, please pass this information along to them.
The deadline to apply here is September 27, 2010. Selected candidates will interview with current board members in early October. Terms begin Jan. 1, 2011.

Second Annual Summit Aims to Shape Our Youth’s Legacy Today

The 30 Summit brings the nation’s top young leaders to New York this Labor Day Weekend to think big by asking: what legacy will our generation leave?

As the world grapples with the global financial crisis, a national healthcare calamity, and persistent educational and economic inequities both at home and abroad, our generation’s legacy is becoming increasingly relevant. The youth of America need to begin to forge their legacy now in order to have a seat at the table as leaders from around the world make the decisions that will impact our generation.  What if you had Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg, Meg Whitman, and Rick Warren in one room… 30 years ago? The Summit, by bringing together some of the most brilliant young Americans in one room thinking big about their legacies, seeks to do just that.

The 30 Summit is apolitical and therefore presents a breath of fresh air in an age when news is becoming more instantaneous and polarizing. In our homogenous and highly-segregated society, the Summit crosses socioeconomic and cultural lines and brings together vibrant perspectives that may have never been brought together in the same room. The Summit will allow its participants to think outside the box and take a long-term view in grappling with our legacies and the world’s global challenges.

Thus, from September 3-5 at University Settlement in SoHo, Summit participants – including a community organizer, university professors, faith leaders, a hip-hop wellness expert, a World Series of Poker player,  government leaders, a former nuclear submarine officer, non-profit leaders, and others – will come together from across industries and ideologies to wrestle with today’s (and tomorrow’s) biggest challenges. In addition to University Settlement, the Summit has partnered with the National Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City, and Acacia Unlimited to make the gathering a success.

The format of the Summit resembles TED talks, the Aspen Ideas festival, and a Presidential Cabinet meeting – combined.  Each Summit participant gets 30 minutes to present and stimulate conversation on a topic related to their work and leadership. Every presentation must include audience participation and time for questions and answers, enabling the group to add to or push back on ideas, contemplate the cross-sector applicability of different concepts, and collaboratively engage in conversations around tough issues. As the ideas from the Summit percolate, participants continue their conversations beyond the weekend and carry them forward into their lives.

But the event seeks to inspire far more than its participants. By posting content from the Summit on its web, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, the Summit seeks to reach a broader audience. For more details and live updates, visit www.30summit.com.

Be a Brand or Be a Mission

The recent article in the Wall Street Journal on small charities being forced by bigger ones to change their names, colors and other portions of their branding really disturbed me. So now we, compassionate servants of social missions, are colorists?

I do understand the need to have a strong identity, but if you are constantly suing the other charities and keeping them from their mission, something's horribly wrong.

Let's not forget that we are social missions and well-run, well-financed organizations. If you really think your organization is losing money and/or manpower, go back to the drawing board and find a brand that can't be duplicated. Consider a merger even, especially if both groups are fighting for the same cause.

For too long, charities and other nonprofit social mission entities have been caught up with being like for-profit, publicly-traded corporations.  Unlike shareholders that win if you maximize profit, you can lose your donors and stakeholders if they feel their money is being wasted or spent on overhead at the expense of the social mission.

Keeping that in mind, either re-write your mission such that it supports these type of brand defending activities or get back to funneling your money to the cause at hand.

What do you think? Is it ok to protect  your slogans, logos or other branding activities at the expense of yours (and other similar groups' ) core mission?

Board Development for your YNPN Board

With professional development events happening frequently it is easy to forget to provide development opportunities specifically for our chapter’s board members.  The type of development I am talking about here is the kind that helps your board run more effectively and efficiently.  Professional development that also provides board members with a richer YNPN experience.

Board development doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.  Here are a few easy ways you can provide your board development opportunities in 15 minutes of a board meeting.

Assign board members to each development slot - During every board meeting you can ask an individual member to lead a 15 minute development task.  This could include improving a board process, getting to know each other better, or helping board members learn more about their own leadership and work style.

Have dinner together - Something we started recently in Grand Rapids and I have heard other chapters around the country do too, is we have dinner together prior to every board meeting.  We start our meetings at 5:15 p.m. with 15 minutes to grab food and talk at the beginning of each meeting.  This not only helps us start on time, but allows for our members to get to know more about others’ lives outside of YNPN.

Start with congratulations and kudos - Ask board members to congratulate each other at the beginning of the meeting.  Give everyone a moment to acknowledge the good work their fellow board members are doing.  Not everyone has to give a kudos, but a few for hard work the month before can go a long way.

Allow board members to bring their work experience to meetings - Allow members to share tools, tips, educational events, etc they experience during their typical work day.  Everyone of us has something we could teach fellow board members about our work.  For example, if one of your board members works at the Humane Society, they could walk the board through a 15 minute educational session on feral cats.  On the other side, if one of your board members teaches seniors to work with word or helps individuals be more productive in their emails you can provide them an opportunity to give their fellow members some tips.

Have advisory board assess board processes - Many YNPNs have advisory boards they use to help improve their work in the community.  Another way to use the advisory board is to have them assess potential or already established board processes. If they look at one process a quarter these can be discussed during board meetings.

None of these five things are rocket science, but all provide your board with a meaningful experience as a member of YNPN.  It is easy, as an all volunteer board, to get burnt out and mixing up some fun or otherwise educational experiences into our board meetings can help us to avoid a little bit of that.

Getting Our Money Right

The biggest challenge I’m facing in my chapter right now is finding a good and available finance director. The one I have is great, but has a lot of other activities in the community. I’ve had another express interest, but once again, he’s also very busy in the community.

In theory I could get along without having a finance director. Most of our events are at places where we reserve the space for free and people willingly buy their own food and drinks. However, for couple of our events, we did a 50-50 split where we put some money to our catering and other money to our organization.

As a result, I began the process of incorporation in the state of North Carolina. Incorporation was necessary so we could cash all the checks that we have and also start raising some money through PayPal. Also, our city requires all organizations, including nonprofits to have a business license and our foundations require 501c3 status or affiliation with one to grant money.

Another reason I’m working hard to get our finances together is that it’s imperative that we are able to continue to fund our sector. We may be non-profit driven, but official currency is the most popular means of exchanging goods and services. Our missions require us to make sacrifices to raise, spend and sometimes cut money.

We have organizations that compensate leaders at high levels, yet do hardly anything for their constituencies. Nick DiColandrea recently took a look at some of the sports related nonprofits in this vein. Other organizations do too much too soon and have to disband for lack of funds and support. Some go for years doing well, but due to dependence on one source of income, say a government grant or major benefactor, the loss of this source leads to their demise.

My next steps will be plotting an operations budget that’s sensible and in-line with what we can spend at this point. I also have a full board now and they will be getting out into the community and tapping into the grants and donors that exist to help fund our cause. I say grants and donors with an s because it takes more than one source of income to ensure long term financial stability. Along the way I’ll be upfront about who we are, why we’re here, what we do and why we need what we need.

So, YNPN family, how are you keeping your money right?

Young professionals serving on boards

Last month Allison Jones and Rosetta Thurman hosted #ynpchat on twitter.  The topic was "the importance of board service for young professionals". Allison posted a great summary of the discussion with some key take aways on her blog.  She makes some great points on how to approach your first board service.  Ask about a give/get policy; realize that fundraising is diverse; and consider volunteering first.

It seems a lot of the tweets and comments on Allison's post regarding young professionals serving on boards came back to what level of fundraising is, and maybe more importantly, "should", be expected.  Obviously this depends on the organization size, etc.  But what should young professionals expect when joining a board?  and what can you bring to the table?

First off, all boards aren't created equal.  I know this is a very obvious point, but young professionals shouldn't take it personal when they aren't asked to serve on a the board of a $10 million agency. 

At the end of the day, nonprofit boards need to raise money.  Young nonprofit professionals can bring a lot to the table, including fundraising, but you shouldn't think the other talents you bring offset the need to raise money.  We don't let attorney's strictly give through their time, because its valuable.

What nonprofit knowledge do you have?  Most board members, especially for smaller organizations may be doing this for the first time.  As a nonprofit pro, what knowledge of governance, etc. can you bring to the table?  Be the expert.

Don't approach board service from the perspective of "what can this do for my career". Sure, it can and will help your career, but don't approach your board service that way.

Find a place you can have a real impact.  3 years ago I joined the board of an organization in Kansas City, Nonprofit Connect.  We operate on about an $800k budget, so by no means big.  I have really enjoyed the experience so far and am looking forward to taking on more leadership soon.  There are many organizations in KC I may be able to get on the board, but for whatever reason, may not be able to get my hands dirty and really involved.  With Nonprofit Connect it has been the right fit.  I have learned a ton about working with other volunteers and working with staff as a volunteer.  It has given me a new perspective on my job at Big Brothers Big Sisters and I have been able to bring some board practices from BBBS over.  Especially while you are young in your career, and maybe have more free time, find a place to get your hands dirty.

Finally, you should join your local YNPN board...or if there isn't one, start one!

Read, Meet, Rock It

Leadership can be defined in many different ways.  Some think individuals aren’t leaders until they have spent a lot of time in their sector and have proved themselves.  Others believe people are born as leaders and being a leader is an instinct.  What ever your definition we can all agree that leaders know their stuff, can motivate and engage their followers to be successful, have a knack for gaining followers, and know how to be successful.

As you are thinking about your own development, don’t forget to read, meet new people, and always rock it.  As over simplified as these rules may be, they cover most leadership basics.

Read

Reading new articles, research, and opinions of your work is important.  Leaders should always keep their ideas fresh and innovative.  Keeping up on your reading can give you an edge.  It is easy to forget to read and stick to tasks. Scheduling regular time during the week for reading is a good way to keep it up.

Meet new people

Networking is nothing new, but essential.  It is easy to slip into a comfort zone of gathering in your normal group at events.  Step out and meet someone new at every event.  Knowing the right person can get you further than anything else.

Always rock it

We learn as children it’s better to try your hardest and fail, than to never try at all.  As a leader you should take on every task with vigor and confidence.  If the tasks succeed your success will feel more exciting.  If you fail, you will have a better chance to learn from your mistakes.  Most importantly if you don’t run head first into the unknown you might miss out on great opportunities.  Strong leaders know when to take risks, and always rock it.

Reading, networking and rocking are simple rules, but easy to remember.  Stick to these three rules in parallel with your hard work and you won’t regret.

Are there other rules you use when leading?  Are their tricks you have to leading well?  Share and discuss what works for you.

Collaboration Too Soon?

Not too long ago, I wrote a post on my own blog asking if it was possible to have too much of a good thing. I was referencing to the ever expanding number of nonprofits and charities and the need for them to come together to make a bigger impact. Collaboration is definitely going to be a huge part of the future for the nonprofit sector, as it should be. And, of course, this will be a good thing for Gen Y. We love collaboration, and we’re good at it.
Nevertheless, I feel that I have been slowly seeing an over eagerness in my fellow Gen Y’ers when it comes to collaboration. It is important to make sure that you have a program or mission that is worth collaborating with before seeking partnerships and connections. We have to be willing to do the hard work, to get our hands dirty if you will. We can’t achieve results by just ‘collaborating for collaborating’s sake.” We need to make sure that we are actually doing and not just talking. There is value in the good ol’ fashioned way of having something to show for yourself before you ask others for support and approval. If two organizations that are doing good things come together, even more good things will be done through their work together. At the same time, if two organizations that aren’t really doing anything come together, not much will come from a partnership between the two. Collaboration is powerful when it is strategic, but like anything else if it is done poorly and prematurely, there won’t be any worthwhile results.
Young people love starting new initiatives, new programs, new networking and/or social groups. Being a co-founder of YNPN Detroit, I hear so many great ideas and visions. However, I think it is very important for us, as ‘young’ nonprofit professionals (I use quotations around the word ‘young’ because, really, these ideas are for everyone) not to skip the grassroots hard work of starting something before running to get partners. As a new chapter, our resources are limited. Resources will, of course, increase gradually in time, but until then, it is important that we are strategic about where those resources are being utilized. We need to make sure we are doing and not just talking.
To my fellow Gen Y Nonprofit Professionals, if you are working on a new initiative, a new program, a new group, etc…Stop and think to yourself: Why should such-and-such organization partner with us? What have we done to suggest that a partnership with us is worth their time? Also, stop and ask yourself: Are we spending more time talking about partnerships than we are actually doing anything?

We don’t want to create a sector of talkers instead of doers. Not to mention, if we want to gain the respect of the other generations that have already been working in the nonprofit sector, we have to make sure that we appear ready to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We are a generation of idealists, positive thinkers, and motivated learners. These are all good things. Let them be our strength, and not our downfall!

Taking Your Chapter to the Next Level

Congratulations, you and some of your nonprofit friends have decided to start a chapter of YNPN. You made it through your first event, built a decent-sized web presence and have lots of support. What’s next? How do you know when it’s time to take the next step? Should your chapter step back?

Speaking from experience, when you are ready to go to the next level:

  • People gladly come to your events
  • People routinely offer to pay for membership
  • You have the backing of major nonprofit leaders
  • You have a core leadership team
  • Private and Public sector organizations, including the media are paying attention

What does that next level look like?  First, take a look at the YNPN chapter levels on the website. You may or may not fit through all the loops, but if you fit through a lot, then you’ve emerged into either a novice or affiliate chapter.

In addition, take a look around at other professional associations and nonprofits in the area that are well run. Those organizations are your best barometer of how the nonprofit sector in your city functions and also what types of events, fundraisers and information your community needs. They are also your sponsors, mentors and friends as you establish yourself in the community.

Finally, make sure that you have these things in order:

  • Determine your legal structure. Decide if you are going to be a division of your local Jaycee, United Way, or other nonprofit organization or if you will pursue an independent 501c3 or LLC.
  • Incorporate and maintain proper licenses to operate and manage money in your jurisdiction.
  • If one exists, join your local nonprofit consortium or advisory group.
  • Support  other young professional, nonprofit and professional groups
  • Be transparent about all leadership decisions, as well as bylaws and policies.

Last but not least, have fun! Being apart of the YNPN family has brought me many benefits and I hope it does the same for you.