YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

12 Days of YNPN: The 2015 National Conference and Leaders Institute

As 2015 winds to a close, we're starting up our annual recap of the amazing things we've experienced over the year. And who can forget the awesome time we had at the 2015 National Conference and Leaders Institute?


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#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.