YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

Nonprofits Need to Encourage Professional Development in their Under 40 Staff

I first became involved with YNPN this past summer. I was looking for ways to develop and grow professionally as a young aspiring nonprofit professional. Despite the fact that I double majored in college and graduated Magna Cum Laude, I had no idea how to move forward in my newly established career in the nonprofit sector – a career path I chose my senior year of college. (Why is it that so many college students seem prone to choose a career path for themselves only at the end of their 4 years of undergrad? Wouldn't it be so much more helpful if we made these decisions sooner?) Of course, upon finding about YNPN, I learned that there was not a local chapter in my area. With a small team of some great people, we are currently in the process of establishing one. This process will not only benefit myself, but should ultimately benefit the entire nonprofit sector of Detroit in years to come.

What I wonder, though, is this: Are the nonprofits that we work for supporting the efforts of their younger staff to improve themselves professionally? Are they supporting the idea that in order for them to succeed in their missions, they are going to need reliable leadership to replace them? This year's conference will focus on professional development in the nonprofit sector one day and on YNPN chapter development the next. Attendees will have the opportunity to take what they learn from this conference and not only improve their local YNPN chapters, but also return as better professionals in the workplace. I know that many of my colleagues are able to use their efforts with YNPN as professional development with their employers, such as this year’s YNPN Annual Conference. Some have more fully established chapters that are able to help fund members to attend. Others are to taking vacation days and/or spending a decent chunk of their own money to participate. For many young nonprofit professionals, spending several hundred dollars on a hotel and airfare in addition to having to take time off work would be more than enough to deter them from attending.

Support from nonprofit employers is crucial to creating strong next generation leadership. Verbal support is not always going to be enough when time and money are involved. Of course, the truth is, many nonprofits are struggling, making now a difficult time to make such requests. This makes it all the more important for the nonprofits that can support their younger staff in growth and development to do so. YNPN helps to ensure that there is a pool of experienced, bright and reliable nonprofit professionals in an area.

A successful YNPN chapter in any given area helps to increase nonprofit collaboration, creates better communication between nonprofits, and also creates avenues for nonprofits to find employees that have hearts for social change. I firmly believe that an organized group of young, social change oriented professionals in the Detroit area learning and growing together has the potential to do many great things for the region. Missions, strategic plans, and strong fund-raising strategies will only get an organization so far until it is time for new leadership. (And of course the leadership exchange is inevitable.) The more equipped that new leadership is the better future nonprofits will have.

Pre-Conference Calm

An unknown source is attributed with having written these words in 1576: "Calm continueth not long without a storm."  And it has been observed that before a severe storm birds stop singing and the air is still.

There must be a storm brewing in Denver!

In the Business Center of the Curtis Hotel, where many 2010 YNPN Conference attendees are staying in downtown Denver, there is an unsettling silence and conspicuous calm - not the type of thing that happens when more than 70 ambitious, talented "do-gooders" convene in one place.  (Of course, I'm pretty sure all 70 or so of us are not staying at the same hotel, and I am definitely the only one in the Business Center right now.)

Perhaps my anticipation, and dare I say anxiety, comes from being a first-timer to this annual Conference.  Well, at least I am not alone.  Like a swarm of bees swooping down on what is still a rather sleepy downtown Denver, 63% of this year's Conference attendees are first-timers, including three members of the National Board.  We come with various expectations, maybe a bit of trepidation, but most certainly with an open mind.  For me, it's a bit exciting to meet new people, connect with like-minded colleagues and draw from the experiences of fellow young nonprofit professionals.

So I'll enjoy the quietness for now.  It won't last long!  Once the sessions start and the brainstorming begins there will be tornadoes of ideas filling our "when we get back" agendas.  There will be more professional and social networking going on than there is on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter combined.  (OK, maybe not, but you get my drift.)

I guess the rain here in Denver is a fitting natural occurrence then.

Keynote: Robert Egger

It's a snowy day in Denver! YNPN leaders from around the country are gathered to share best practices.
YNPN Denver leader Sarah Fisher mentions that the Denver chapter is interested in moving towards incorporating more advocacy into their efforts.

Robert Egger (@robertegger on twitter) is the founder and President of DC Central Kitchen and leader of the V3 campaign.
Robert feels like he's the "YNPN stalker." Since day 1 he has been a passionate believe in YNPN. He believes in our generation, and that his generation is not moving into action as it should.

"If the times aren't ripe, ripen the times." - Dorothy Height

Too often we listen to policies or ideas that are outdated and irrelevant.

Robert is devoted to the evolution of the nonprofit sector, he believes that the nonprofit sector is an integral part of the American life.
As a sector we are very good at moving people out of danger or poverty into a place of safety or progress. But we haven't taken the larger sectors of society to make a fundamental shift.

When Robert first encountered YNPN, "the young part was right on, the professional part was in question."

Robert praises the members in the audience that have become nonprofit leaders, like Rosetta Thurman.

"To what end? What are you doing to do?"

"It's time to get serious and professional."

"Below you there is 80 million young people, 50 million in school, and more than half are not white.  They will be looking to you to lead them out of this and into something new and powerful."

"How are you supporting one another as you come up? You have to use this network and support one another."

"A lot of what we do in the nonprofit sector is a way to replace what was once part of the agricultural society."

An entire generation of powerful, college-educated white women were driven into a silo of "acceptable" work in charity.

In the 1970s, young people were politically active, especially young women. They had ideas to start nonprofits. But they ran into a foundation world run by white men with money from other white men. The foundations only provided small grants with short renewal cycles, so as to monitor and preserve the status quo.

MLK was heading to DC to lead a campaign for economic justice when he was assassinated in Tennessee.

Because women who started nonprofits also tended to have wealthy husbands, the nonprofits were setup to underpay and underbenefit their employees.

Why aren't political candidates paying more attention to the nonprofit sector? How do we elevate this opportunity? How do we help legislators to see what we could be?

To recognize the dream of a new nonprofit sector, we must elect people who recognize the new nonprofit sector.

90% of college freshman have done community service. We have an entire generation who is civically involved. But as a country we haven't thought about what we do with this generation coming up.

  • Robert admit he wanted to be a hippie as a 10-year-old in 1968. :)
  • Robert thinks our generation's moment is going to be social activism and social enterprise.
  • Nonprofit leaders need to emphasize their love for the mission as well as their need for a fair living wage.
  • Robert suggests a restructured and renewable tax deduction system to encourage people to invest in nonprofits and good causes.
  • Robert hopes our generation and the one behind us can make this leap where the lines between business and nonprofit are blurred.
  • Robert predicts bigger state and local budget deficits on July 1st. Too many legislators look at the nonprofit sector as the biggest pot of untaxed revenue. He predicts flawed legislation taxing properties of nonprofits.

The mayor in Denver is one of the only that has an Office of Strategic Partnerships, which includes relationships with nonprofits. And now he's running for governor. Robert sees great potential in having a candidate that drafts policies that recognize and encourage the potential of nonprofit organizations as part of an overall economic strategy.

35 senate races, 36 governors races, and 486 congressional races.... Robert points out this is a great year to get the nonprofit sector engaged.

SCOTUS decision gave corporations a first amendment right... but in the fine print, nonprofits were disenfranchised.
"We want to be free from the bondage of the grant cycle."

Robert asks that we not be complacent. That we be the kinds of leaders that sees the future and marches out to meet it.
The work at DC Central Kitchen is also about raising the dialogue. How do we feed our elders AND value them?

  • "No more throwaway people. No more throwaway business." (Robert's energy today is INCREDIBLE!)
  • "I don't understand why we have yet to rise up."
  • Robert believes the green movement is the tip of a worldwide yearn for a new system, a new perspective.
  • "We don't make as much as our for profit colleagues, but we sure are happier."

The real potential of social enterprise is as a real alternative to charity. We need to reward businesses that have great policies.
Our generation is the first with the real power to transform the country and the world.

In the UK, there is a Minister of the Third Sector. Looking for a Minister of Social Enterprise.

Q: Can we come together as funders and fundees? Can we come together as fundees across diverse groups? A: Charity in America is still based on culture of "life insurance for the next life." There is an unequal power dynamic that we need to be rid of. If you and I had competing dry cleaners, every night we would shoot eye daggers at each other and I would wish ill on your business. But if someone tried to regulate small business, you and I might put aside our grievances and joined forces. We need to explore that in the nonprofit sector.

  • "There's no leadership vacuum. Are you kidding!?"
  • "The era of Extra is over. So what becomes of us now?"
  • The new generation wants to volunteer: "Use me!"
  • "Don't wait for permission. Be ready. Slings and arrows will come when you try to make change. It will hurt. They will call you names."