YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

#BuildingLeaders: Your Stories













A little more than a week ago, we launched our Leaders Building Leaders campaign to raise $25,000 for YNPN's leadership development work in the social sector. And as of today, we've raised more than $21,000!

We're so excited to be on the verge of achieving our fundraising goal, but we've also been incredibly inspired by the response to our campaign and your #BuildingLeaders stories.

We've had many messages come in via social media and our fundraising site--too many to share here! But we've put together a blog post with some of our favorite #BuildingLeaders messages. Here are some of the stories of leaders that have invested in and inspired you!


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Who Inspires Some of the Most Influential Leaders in the Sector?

Our #BuildingLeaders campaign is all about recognizing those who have had an impact on our lives and careers. The people we encounter on our leadership journeys can change our lives forever.

Every great leader can point to a person or people who have been instrumental in their leadership development. We asked some of the most influential leaders in the sector who inspired, shaped or motivated their work. Check out what they said and then honor a leader who has impacted you by making a donation to our #BuildingLeaders campaign.

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Sliding Doors: Leaders Building Leaders

Our #BuildingLeaders campaign is all about recognizing those who have had an impact on our lives and careers. The people we encounter on our leadership journeys can change our lives forever.

In this essay, YNPN San Diego co-founder and former YNPN Denver board member Emily Davis reflects on the impact that YNPN had for her and talks about some of her "sliding doors" moments.


I’ve always loved Sliding Doors, the movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow that follows her character through two parallel lives. One version of her life begins when she catches the train home, and the other begins when the train door shuts in her face.

I’ve had so many doors open for me in my career, many times because of a combination of luck, passion, and support that came at just the right time. When I look back on my experiences in the nonprofit sector, I see my experiences with YNPN as “sliding doors” moments.

My life and career could have gone in a different direction but because of YNPN opening those doors I am now a proud and joyful consultant, leader, and volunteer in my nonprofit community. I would not be where I am today without the partnership, support, and guidance I received in this network.

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Leaders Building Leaders: Who Has Influenced Our Board of Directors?

At YNPN we are fortunate to have an awesome Board of Directors that guides and advances the work we do and we couldn’t do it without them! Since they are such a strong support to us and our efforts to build strong nonprofit leaders, we wanted to know about the leaders that supported and shaped their careers. Check out who our board members are honoring with their donation to the #BuildingLeaders campaign and join them in honoring leaders who inspire.

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It Happens Every Day


Every day, tens of thousands of YNPN members wake up, go to work, and try to change the world.



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Announcing the Leaders #BuildingLeaders Campaign!

I’m sure you are familiar with the old adage, “leaders aren’t born, they are made.”  At YNPN we truly believe this! It is the very reason we do what we do. We aim to activate, support and invest in young nonprofit professionals across the country. We are proud to be working with some of the most talented emerging leaders in the sector. And what we have learned through our work over the last 11 years is the best leaders also empower those around them. It actually may be more accurate to say, “leaders aren’t born, they are developed through relationships with other dynamic leaders.”

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YNPN and Nonprofit Quarterly Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Reader

Equity_Diversity_and_Inclusion.JPGIt is becoming increasing clear that young leaders think, discuss and respond differently than older leaders to issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. These differences need to be acknowledged and more deeply understood in a personal, organization, and political way. Our lived experiences are the result not just of our race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, class, age or work status, but the result of the dynamic and sometimes conflicting experiences of the intersection of these identities in our lives and work.

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Meet the #ynpn15 Social Media Ambassadors!

SavetheDate2015-300x200.jpgIn just a few short days we will be in Little Rock for the YNPN National Conference and Leaders Institute. We are so excited about this year’s content. This could be our best conference yet!

To stay up to date with all the happenings be sure to follow the official hashtag (#ynpn15 of course!) and stay tuned to the YNPN social media channels for all the updates. You can also follow along with our official #ynpn15 Social Media Ambassadors. These tech savvy YNPNers will be sharing all things #ynpn15, so you won’t miss a thing. So get to know our fabulous team and get ready for #ynpn15!

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Self-Care: You Can't Go It Alone!

I’ve been wrestling with the term of “self-care” since my YNPN fellowship, trying to broaden this care conversation from “self” to “collective” and from “independent” to “interdependent”. What I’ve learned: caring for myself – especially as I care for others – is absolutely vital. And, I can’t go it alone.

If I know one thing deep in the core of my being, it’s the miracle and importance of interdependence. Growing up in a diverse community where folks shared life’s ups and downs together, I became aware that I was not alone in facing challenges – whatever they may be. No matter what I’m struggling with, there are folks out there who can relate and/or support me, and there’s much I can do to identify and reach out to them. That truth has helped me through many difficult moments, and I try to convey it with others who might be struggling.

For me, so many things comes back to relationships: whether it’s developing leaders, building projects and campaigns, and making meaning in the world. My self-care and my effectiveness as a leader have been absolutely dependent on relationships with others: with mentors, caretakers, colleagues, and loved ones. My relationships hold me accountable to my goals, and support me when I have trouble caring for myself.

Accountability Partners Though I’m aware of my needs and goals, I’m more likely to take action and build positive habits when I’m not “going it alone”. That’s especially true if I’m struggling with discouraging thoughts, like “I’m too busy for self care” (oh, the irony!) or “I feel so overwhelmed with ________________.” It helps to have folks beyond my own internal dialogue who can reinforce positive thinking, remind me of my commitments and the values they’re built on, and encourage me to draw on my resources and abilities to face challenging situations.
Most of my relationships happen and evolve informally, but some have been more intentional and structured. I consider those folks accountability partners. Here are a few examples:

  • Ellen and I met through a training program for activists and community organizers. We found several mutual interests, including healing the emotional wounds of injustice. In recent years, we’ve coached each other on issues ranging from personal and professional development to financial management.
  • My college roommate Michelle and I served as Peer Career Advisors together: we both sought out opportunities to develop our own and others’ leadership. Throughout our careers, we’ve returned to that peer counseling model – strategizing about challenging work scenarios, prepping one another for interviews, and more.
  • Katy and I were paired up for an exercise at a spiritual retreat, and have stayed in touch through a structured prayer practice. To use secular language: these conversations help us interrupt the hecticness of our day-to-day lives, refocus on our deepest values and intentions, and think more abundantly about what’s positive and possible in our lives, and in the wider world.


Three things that have made these accountability partnerships successful:

1. Create some kind of structure, and vary / adopt it as needed.  I have mixed feelings about structuring my life: for example, I prefer setting my own varied work hours over keeping a rigid, standardized work schedule. With accountability partners, though, I’ve found that structure and regularity take our peer support to a new level. Structuring our time – flexibly so – also helps me stay connected with accountability partners across time zones and overlapping schedules.

For example, Katy and I have brief, structured check-in calls using the same format, even timing ourselves if needed. We each respond to the same basic question/s about how we’re doing and what we’re noticing in our lives, and reflect back what we’ve heard from each other. This helps us “go deep” quickly and make the most our limited time together.

Meanwhile, Ellen and I carve out chunks of time to connect, and then assess what kind of peer support we need most in that moment: We might want to chat most of the time, taking turns sharing updates or asking for feedback. Or we might want a quiet “work session” in which we tackle particular tasks side by side (whether in person or via video chat). Or if we’re in need of a particular self care activity and/or some time alone, we adjust our plan and make that a priority.

2. Connect with people both within and beyond your “usual circles.” Much of my professional and personal network is in the non-profit sector, which is wonderful for finding allies and mentors who understand what those leaders and organizations do day-to-day. At the same time, I’m glad to be connected to folks like Michelle, who’s worked almost entirely in for-profit settings.
Our interchange helps me think bigger than my own current context: about the issues that leaders face across industries and sectors, and about strategies and solutions for common challenges that translate into a variety of work settings.
Connecting ongoingly with someone outside the nonprofit world has also helped me understand the particularities of the sector: for example, the unique challenges nonprofits face in building and sustaining resilient leaders and organizations.

3. Interrupt “normal” working culture and share self care space with each other. One of my mentors, Paul, and I used to have walking meetings in a quiet hillside park. After a while, those walks became part of my muscle memory. As Paul and I talked and walked, my mind would slow down, and I’d gradually become present to the beautiful nature around me.

One time – I was running an intense political campaign, no doubt neglecting my self-care in the process – we paused atop the hill, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. I marveled at the contrast between the speed of the noisy cars and trucks and ships below, and that of the peaceful birds and trees right around us. Seeing that the world would continue moving along without me as I took some time to breathe in nature and sort my thoughts was a powerful, needed reminder that self care was not only needed, but possible within the intense pace of my work life.

Moving forward YNPN is built on a sense of mutuality: creating a movement with multiple avenues for people – in this case, young social change leaders – to both give and receive support, and witness each other’s growth and transformation. If you’re looking for an accountability partner, your local YNPN chapter – or even national resources, like the YNPN conference or LaunchPad program  might have what you’re looking for. Or, think of relationships you already have in your life – with friends, relatives, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, or other community members. How you might more formally, intentionally leverage those relationships for your mutual benefit? What kind of personal or professional development goals could you move toward with support from others (while offering, in turn, the support they may need)? What kind of self care – and moreover, community care – is possible when we don’t “go it alone”?


Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward
, a former YNPN national fellow, is a social change practitioner whose work has included ministry, community organizing, public speaking, writing, coaching, teaching/training, fundraising, program management, and more. Betty Jeanne drives social change through capacity building and by developing effective, sustainable leaders of all ages, with the goal of activating people, organizations and communities in pursuit of the common good. More on her work can be found on LinkedIn and in a recent interview by her seminary.


Self-Care Tools and Tips

While working in the non-profit sector allows us to get paid to support causes near and dear to us, we often do so under a lack of resources and support, less pay than contemporaries in other professions, long and thankless hours, and very little time to consider our own well-being and individual goals. Any of those things alone can cause us to experience this phenomenon we non-profit employees know called burnout. Self-care is when we intentionally set up boundaries and tactics to mitigate feelings of burnout.
In seeking to bring forth your best self to your work, you must create and prioritize space and time to recharge through intentional, quality self-care. This is fundamental to us helping our organizations meet their goals. While the application of self-care varies from person to person, I hope that below you might find some helpful tips to evaluate, practice, and prioritize self-care to guide you in enhancing your practice of this critical art of sustainability.
Determine you current priorities in life, and evaluate your need for change. Time is a resource we’ll never get back; so, think critically about how you are spending your time. What percentage of your time do you spend on relationships with family and friends? How much time do you devote to your spirituality, traditions, culture, customs, and intellectual pursuits? How much time are you devoting towards work (think about the time beyond work hours you spend working on assignments or thinking about work)? What, if any, time do you devote towards you?
Map out, table, or chart the distribution of your time. Then, evaluate the areas where you’d like to increase your time spent and the areas you’d like to devote less time towards. Acknowledging this is the first step towards selecting self-care practices that truly sustain you.
Know your self-care love language. I’ve recently become introduced to love languages (feel free to take the test: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/). While love languages focus primarily on romantic partnerships, it is helpful to consider the relationships we pursue with ourselves similarly. Test yourself, stop to think about the times you feel you’ve treated yourself well, and identify characteristics about those moments that you can replicate in your regular practice of self-care.
Was it quality time with friends or nature? How about the physical touch of a masseuse? And who doesn’t enjoy gifting themselves gifts through a little retail therapy from time to time? Find out what makes you feel loved and supported, and participate regularly in those acts. Once you understand more about the type of characteristics you respond well to, branch out to new practices of self-care that share some of those characteristics.
Mark your schedule for self-care. Treat self-care like a weekly one-on-one check-in with yourself, and do not skip out on it. It is as important as all the other, countless meetings you may find yourself in throughout the week. Additionally, most of our nonprofit sector jobs have their peaks and valleys when it comes to workload. When you can anticipate the high-intensity peak times, make sure you schedule in some necessary self-care time before, during, and after these occasions.
CC image courtesy of AlisaRyan via Flicker  CC image courtesy of AlisaRyan via Flicker
Group-care with others. I wrote about this in a previous blog for the Black Youth Project. You are not alone in this work. Building strong relationships is key to the work and your sustainability within it. The strongest act of self-care is opening yourself up to others and being transparent—be it with a group of friends, family, or a professional.
It doesn’t only take a village to get you from child to adult, but it also takes a village to sustain you. Group-care means that you are truly and actively sustaining yourself in the work; and, by engaging in group-care practices, you build up a wall of protection for challenging times that you alone cannot handle. Building people power makes for your own well-being. Talk to people, share your concerns and hopes with confidants, and speak truth to those around you that you can trust.
Reduce negative coping strategies. Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice, so some things that may be negative coping strategies for you might be positive or neutral for others.  Simply think about your goals in self-care, and if a certain activity makes it more difficult for you to reach them, consider limiting the time you spend participating in it. Through my experience as a program manager of a national youth leadership development non-profit program, my effectiveness in my role increases depending on the quality of self-care I practice on a regular basis. I encourage you to continue the practices of self-care that work for you, try new ones, and firmly make self-care a priority in your life.  In doing so, the work will move forward more fluidly.
Andrew-HS-by-RonMarion Andrew Humphrey, Jr.  (@humphreymarion) currently serves as the Fellowship Program Manager at Young People For (YP4), a program with People For the American Way Foundation. Each year, YP4 supports 150 diverse young people across the country to effect sustainable social change in their communities. Andrew resides in Washington, DC, hails from Little Rock, AR, and is a 2010 graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina. After graduation, Andrew moved to Beijing, China and worked as a college counselor and SAT prep coach for Chinese natives seeking admission into the U.S. college system. In 2012, Andrew returned to North Carolina as a Deputy Field Organizer for Organizing for America, through which he continued his advocacy for inclusive, progressive policies, and institutions that honor the diversity and autonomy of our nation’s communities. He spends his time playing tennis, singing oldies at karaoke, and organizing with young community members in DC’s chapter of BYP100.