YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Herding Cats: Leading a YNPN Chapter

The chairs of the San Francisco chapter organized a session just for board chairs "Herding Cats". And it was amazing.

Next month, YNPN Chicago starts nominations for the next Executive Co-Chair. The person we elect will help lead the organization from 2010-2012, a pair of crucial years in our development. It will include decisions around celebrating our 10th anniversary, building a stable revenue stream, and defining what it means to be a YNPN Chicago "member".

I have served on the board for almost 4 years, and spent 2 of those as Executive Co-Chair. The biggest lesson I have learned about leadership is also the corniest. It's about love. It really is.

Sentiments aside, a good leader has to love themselves and love other people. To support the other members of the board, I've had to get past my own issues. When we're trying to run an ambitious set of programs or submit our first grant proposal, there isn't room for my ego or insecurities. I have to feel confident in my skills and be comfortable with admitting my faults.

I want the very best for each of my board members, even when that means that serving on the YNPN Chicago board is no longer in the cards. The people on our team should feel like they can be honest in their conversations and vulnerable in their requests for help.

Of course, there's always a level of excellence that needs to be set for the entire group. But I never worry about that. The people involved with YNPN, in Chicago and around the country, are some of the smartest, most hard-working, most loyal people I've ever met.

It was clear that every board chair in the room shared these qualities of excellence, confidence, and genuine interest in the success of others. They were warm, they were engaged, they were smart.

Our conversation was facilitated into a problem-solving exercise, where we analyzed the specific issues facing one chapter. By working through that specific issue, we were able to address the issues that affect all of us, including managing an all-volunteer board that often needs to operate at the level of staff.

What did we take away from the time we spent together?

  • Give board members a chance to give you their feedback on a regular basis. And listen.
  • Make a public plan for your work together, and hold each other accountable.
  • Document your decision making guidelines so everyone is on the same page.
  • Use board meetings to discuss real issues, and find other channels for reporting the mundane business of the board.

Sorry I can't be too specific. We did agree to confidentiality once we shut the door. :)

The Non-Executive Director

We spent a lot of time discussing the Executive Director position this weekend and the impending need for new leadership that the sector will have to accommodate for. And while the Executive Director is often the title associated with nonprofit leadership, it is by no means the only title for leaders.

I want to stress to my fellow YNPNers and beyond that you can lead without becoming an Executive Director. Certainly, there is always a sense of pride and excitement when meeting and/or hearing about Gen X'ers (or even Millennials!) that are doing well as young Executive Directors of an organization. It is by no means a small task to run a nonprofit organization, and to do it early in life is a great achievement.  I know several, and I have great respect for each of them.

However, I dedicate this post to those who do not see the ED title in their future, yet still want to lead. You can lead now, as an associate or program coordinator. You can lead in YNPN or in your community. EDs are not the only leadership positions available.

I believe that the vast majority of us share this in common: We want to have a strong professional career, make a decent living, and do good at the same time. But how that 'strong professional career' in the nonprofit sector looks like might be different from person to person, and that is ok. I spoke with a YNPNer this weekend who said that he would never want to be a ED, because he wants to remain in constant and direct contact with the people that his organization serves. I, personally, don't see myself as wanting an ED position. That is not because I don't believe myself to be qualified or able, but because I would rather devote myself entirely to a particular area that I am passionate about, as opposed to being in charge of everything. Of course, I am young and things may change. But the fact of the matter is, you can lead from wherever you are in the sector. Each nonprofit serves the community in some way, whether it is the local community or beyond. Leaders throughout organizations are needed in order for us to serve to the best of our ability.

Let us not forget that a hard working program coordinator can often find him/herself doing the workload of two or more staff persons in half the amount of time while still maintaining a smile and loving his/her work. I'm not meaning to put the "badge" on our shoulders... you know what I'm taking about... the "feel sorry for me because I do such a great thing but I am so overworked and underpaid and...." No. This is not what I mean. What I am saying is that term "leader" does not necessarily imply "Executive Director."

Whether the golden ED title is hanging high in your head or if you have other plans, you can still lead. Volunteer with YNPN. Become a resource for your colleagues and for the community. Work hard at your job and never stop looking for ways to grow and learn. Take control of your career and lead it in the direction you want it to go. You are not limited. Lead in your own way.

Here is to all of the 'young' nonprofit 'leaders' no matter the title. I look up to each of you and couldn't be more excited to share this great YNPN network with such amazing people.

The Value of Attending the YNPN National Conference

Out of the dozen of so conferences I've attended in my brief 5-year career, the ynpn National Conferencefor was one of the best for the following reasons:   - Connecting with the souls driving the future of social profit work.  I tend to be a positive person in general, however talking with peers about their passion and purpose reaffirmed the younger generations in the workforce will provide a strong bridge between the upcoming leadership gap of baby boomers retiring and successful, sustainable organizations.   - The sessions were run by our people, for our people.  Young leaders blend ease, humor and substance.  The sessions didn't feel like stuffy classrooms, where the speaker pontificates and the listeners jot down major concepts.  The sessions felt like brain storming with friends in a coffee shop.  Many presenters offered a natural  informal professionalism - sharing jokes and best practices with equal comfort and using phrases like "organic organizational culture" and "like whoa!" in the same sentence.            - Whatever you missed at the conference, some member will create an app. to teach you about it.  As someone who is less tech.-savvy than most 3 year olds, (I'm writing this entry on a typewriter, for example), I was amazed at how quickly information flowed thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Google docs. and other fascinating features of the high-speed internet superhighway.   - Yes we can.  The conference helped me recharge as

I was reminded: our peers make a positive difference everyday.  We don't know all the answers, but we have a mass of invested people determined to test solutions.  Wicked smart young leaders commit themselves to service in their community and push the staus quo, push the boundaries and push for benefical change. As we push, we advance.  We are part of a movement en route to social justice, each generation progressing further.  I am eager for the distance of our collective step.    

 Ian Esquibel

 Program Associate, Office of Philanthropic Outreach ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Thinking about YNPN Diversity

I just left a morning session on diversity.  I am not even sure why I signed up for the session.  I can get blue in the face talking about "diversity" almost to the point that I wonder, "Why are we still talking about this?"  However, today's session led by Naomi Leaphart from Philadelphia's Nonprofit Leaders (not quite YNPN, but close enough!) gave me a lot to think about.

Here are some thought-provoking questions from the session and other nuggets of information and insight from this session:  (Please share your thoughts and leave a comment or two.)

  • What is your definition of diversity?
  • What scares you most about conversations on diversity?
  • Who is allowed to have conversations about diversity?
  • When is the conversation over?
  • “It needs to be okay to say something different.” – NL
  • “Diversity is not simply a static state of being.”
  • “Diversity isn’t just about representation.”
  • Do we frame YNPN in a way that allows people to identify with what we do?  How are we framing our message?
  • “There is a difference between conversations about diversity and diverse conversations.” - session participant
  • How can we get to a point where everyone is culturally competent?
  • What needs to be homogenous?
  • What structural assumptions do YNPN Chapters make about programming?
  • If you did an assessment of your YNPN Chapter, what is the culture – the unspoken rules of engagement?
  • What language can you develop to discuss diversity within your Chapter?

State of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network

YNPN National Board Chair is currently giving a "state of the network."

Of note...

In 2010 there are more than 30 chapters (32) across the country and approximately 20,000 members.  Every month, there are about 5 inquiries from young nonprofit professionals who want to start chapters.

The YNPN Best Practices are available on the YNPN website.

YNPN operates on a $40,000 - $45,000 annual budget, and we need to think about how we can build revenue to maintain current operations and ideally to grow.

What are some of the BIG Questions?

  • What impact do we want to have as a network?
  • What are the core operations that are most critical for chapters' and for the network's continued success?
  • What is the capacity needed to conduct those activities?
  • What is the best way to raise revenue to support those activities?

Regarding revenue generation, YNPN National is aggressively pursuing foundations and new funders; exploring sponsorship opportunities; beginning to consider phasing in chapter dues.  And YNPN National is asking for feedback to help identify untapped opportunities and feedback on what chapters consider critical and are willing to help support.

Regarding iModules, the platform was launged in spring/summer of 2008.  There are 19 chapters currently using iModules.  The platform offers significant capacity for automated communication, event registration, dues, and tracking member demographics.  The start-up has been time-consuming and challegning for chapters.  The platform is not intuitive and many chapters and not utilizing iModules' advanced capacities.

  • What do Chapters and National need from a technology prlatform?
  • Is iModules accomplishing this for us?
  • Wound another platform or system meet these goals better?
  • Does YNPN need a centralized technology platform?
  • If YNPN moves away from iModules, what would the short-and long-term repercussions be?

Today's sessions will delve into these issues.  NO DECISIONS will be made this weekend, but important conversations will happen.
"We did not want to pass up the opportunity to get your feedback in person." - Josh Solomon.

And YNPN definitely does not want to pass up the opportunity to get your feedback online either.  If you were unable to attend the conference this year and you have ideas, comments and feedback about any of these topics, please leave your comments here, start conversations with your local chapters and share your opinions with each other and YNPN National.

That Leadership Gap We Talk About

In 2006, a study surveyed numerous nonprofits with revenues greater than $250,000. In that study, the projected growth of the nonprofit sector and the need for new management suggested that the number of new managers needed to meet the need would require attracting 50% of all MBA graduates from every school in the country in the next 10 years. Over the next 10 years, the nonprofit sector will potentially need 640,000 new senior managers. Even if the sector begins consolidating and merging together, the survey still suggested that at least 330,000 new senior managers would still be needed.

Another study done in 2006 on Executive Director positions in nonprofits found that 75% of the Executive Directors surveyed were planning to leave their positions within the next 5 years (although they did plan to stay within the sector.) 70% said that they were planning to leave their organization at some point. Less than 1 in 3 had discussed succession planning with their Board.

There is a discussion that needs to be happening between those that are leading now and those that want to lead in the future. Here at the YNPN Annual Conference, it seemed that almost everyone is aware that these conversations are happening, but they are happening separately. Next generation leadership talks about it and so does the current leadership, but the conversations are not crossing between different generations.

Today, our keynote speaker, Robert Egger, suggested that our society does not recognize the incredible impact of the successes of the nonprofits. When we put people back to work, give young people better education, when we feed and house people, we are not only helping people, but we are helping society. The more people working, the better financial situation a community will be in. When people have food and housing, they can focus on their other needs. I am afraid that some of the nonprofit sector is making this same mistake. We are so focused on our own missions, that we are forgetting the impact that our fellow nonprofit organizations have on us. Nonprofits are afraid to invest in younger staff because the likelihood is that the younger staff person will leave. But better leadership in the nonprofit sector benefits the entire sector, not just a particular organization. Better education will ultimately equal a smaller need in employment, food and housing assistance. People that have jobs will be better equipped to afford taking care of their families. When one nonprofit is successful, we are all impacted in a positive way. Missions are important, but it may not be such a good idea to see ourselves as so separate from one another.

And of course, for young nonprofit professionals, we cannot always sit and wait. We must take control of our careers. If we aren't finding the professional development we need at our jobs, we might need to look for it elsewhere. Develop a personal brand. Join a board. Volunteer your skills and services. Go to conferences and learning seminars on your own time with your own money if you can. It can be done.

Of course, if the leadership gap projects are accurate, we will need both the next generation and the current generation of leadership to work together to ensure a viable and productive nonprofit sector for the future. Our communities will need one, and they deserve to have one.

Robert Egger keynote (video)

A portion of Robert's presentation at the YNPN National Conference today.


Convergence: Nonprofit Professionals in a Cross-Sector World

Caryn Capriccioso (@caryncap)
Slides at www.intersectorl3c.com/ynpn.html

interSector Partners L3C focuses on intersection space. They are the 39th L3C in the country! :) Their social mission is to focus on sustainability of nonprofits, social responsibility of for profits, and government accountability.

Caryn's start was in workforce development. She realized that people were dropping out of job training programs because they could not afford childcare. So she brought a daycare into the YWCA. Many of the women graduating from the program found jobs at the daycare center. Caryn was viewed as revolutionary for bringing the nonprofit and for-profit together. She did not realize she had created a social enterprise or that it was a nationwide movement.

"There are ways to make money and save the planet at the same time."

No one sector can make all the money or solve all the problems or rule forever from on-high.
All hands on deck! Doing well AND doing good.

Now: Venture Philanthropy, Social Enterprise, Philanthropcapitalism (includes business metrics and strategies) , Social Innovation, Social Entrepreneurs, L3C, Corporate Philanthropy and Social Responsibility

Recommended book: Mission Inc, by Kevin Lynch and Julius Walls

Recommended article: Nonprofit Times article on L3Cs

Did you know? Banks are required by law to give money back to the community?

Ashoka and Denver are launching campaign to find innovative solutions to pressing social problems. Paired with an intense marketing campaign to move social innovation forward from all sectors. People are encouraged to visit a website and find one of many many ways to get involved.

Definitions and terminology are extremely varied. Publications and new media are covering the issue everywhere. Business structures are evolving. Education, professional and skill set development is possible. There are more conferences being organized. There are new job titles and career paths.

Where are we headed?

Gen X and Millennials are the deciding generation.
(Since when did I become a Millennial!!! 1977-1998.)

Small Group Discussion Time!

Where are we trying to go?

  • Leveraging strengths across the sectors
  • Diversified portfolio of types of organizations for community benefit
  • Transferable skills
  • Having something meaningful to market besides profits
  • Focusing on shared values instead of differences
  • Benefits to nonprofits to outsource non-mission tasks so that staff can focus on the mission
  • Strategic alliances forming


  • Fear and lack of trust in nonprofit world
  • Cultural differences in different sectors, Need to focus on the systems not the people
  • "Hurry up and wait" mentality
  • Lack of understanding about the other sector's role
  • Who takes the lead?


  • Leveraging ourselves as a political force
  • Seeing the nonprofit sector as more independent from government

What's the role of young professionals?

  • Open minded generations (x and millenials)
  • Make the case to organizations
  • Be the diversified portfolio that we want to see in the world

What do we need?

  • (Snacks. - ys)
  • Having a dialogue, facilitator to help lead the strategic plan
  • Creating a model to gain experience
  • Access to examples
  • Resources (books, articles, conferences)
  • Sense of urgency

Pedagogy of the (Nonprofit) Oppressed

Robert Egger's keynote was chockfull of information, ideas and insights.

I wonder if Robbert Egger has had an opportunity to have a conversation with Dan Pallotta because their opinions about the restraints on, lack of sector advocacy for and flawed foundations within the history of the formation of the nonprofit sector are similar.

That's what I call affirmation of a concept or theory.

In his book, Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, is on my "Must Read List" for this summer.  I heard Dan speak about his book when it was first published, and I left his lecture thinking: So if the nonprofit industry in the United States is built on a Puritanical approach to charity, which defines good work as a mandatory penance for inevitable human flaws - sin.

Today, Robert Egger talked about the '60s and '70s as the proliferation of the establishment of nonprofit organizations in this country.  That time in the nation's history was a time of great change and awesome opportunities.  Starting with anecdotes about his mother, Egger's late mother became a symbol for hundreds of good-doing white women across the country who started nonprofit organizations founded with the tinge of Carnegie-model philanthropy based in individualistic, capitalistic for-profit business models. 

This created a system of "giving extra" - not giving more, but giving whatever is left over to those who need the most.  That is not charity, nor is transferring leftovers to our constituents the business of the nonprofit industry.

An industry, as Robert Egger reminded us, that is huge - in employees, people served and dollars - in this country.  An industry that he argued is oppressed.  And as he referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Egger lifted how oppression is not a one-way, unilateral, flat experience.  It affects both oppressor and the oppressed.

And like Franz Fannon's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the responsibility of the oppressed to stand up and educate the oppressor on the true nature of oppression as a restrictive, destructive force.  So one of the themes of Robert Egger's speech that I walked away with was the need for the nonprofit industry to do advocacy individually (Do I really speak up for myself about my work/life balance?  Do I negotiate for fair compensation?), organizationally (Do our organizations have regular communication with public officials?  Do we partner with both like-minded and other-minded groups when the need arises to pursue a common goal?), and sector-wide (Do we get the media attention we deserve for the impact and good work that we do?  How do we overcome the external perception that dollars spent on marketing, public relations and advertising are wasteful "overhead" costs?)

Additionally, I could not help leave the auditorium thinking about shifting demographics in the country.  The old models (Puritans, Carnegie, well-meaning white women responding to the systems set up by capitalistic white men) are outdated and extremely restrictive.

As a Black female YNPN, I find great strength and inspiration standing on the shoulders of those before me who have been teaching the oppressors they encountered about the grave injustice of marginalization and discrimination.  I do not know how to now blow whistles, not identify injustice and address it.  Black people have fought too hard.  Women have made too many progressive strides.

So now is the time for me to assess that I am a part of a generation who has been told we don't have a movement, but here it is - change (not too reference President Obama...).  We are a generation of service, idealism and hope, and those of us working in the nonprofit industry have to strategize and execute a never-before-seen sector movement calling for respect for our work, space to innovate, and the dismantling of existing institutions that stand as obstacles to the creation of a new nonprofit model that actually strives to solve the problems plaguing this world.

Welcome to Denver from the YNPN National Board


Here's a quick video of the YNPN National Board Members welcoming you all to the YNPN National Leaders Conference.  We're all proud for the work done to bring us all together this weekend and are excited to energize the YNPN movement.  We applaud all YNPN leaders across the country!