2014 was a big year for YNPN. We celebrated ten years as a national network, set an ambitious fundraising goal and blew through it, hosted our biggest and best conference yet, and... well, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be reviewing those moments from 2014 and a few of our other favorites events and experiences from this year. We call it the 12 Days of YNPN and we're kicking it off by welcoming our newest chapters to the network!
These three fabulous new chapters bring the YNPN network up to 40 chapters across the country. Welcome Birmingham, Hampton Roads, and New Jersey!
Do you have a favorite YNPN moment from this year? Tweet @ynpn and tell us!
Earlier this week, we shared the results of our #ynpn10 fundraiser, celebrating our first decade as a network and preparing for the decade to come. Today, our leadership team was kind enough to share some of the process behind the campaign and lessons learned. Their answers shed light on how to: attract millennial donors, deal with unexpected changes in plan and motivate change through powerful messaging.
1. Do you feel like you learned anything new about millennial donors as a result of this campaign? If so, what?
While many of our donors were millennials, we were actually really proud of the age diversity among those who supported the campaign. In addition to the members and chapter leaders that supported the campaign (who fall solidly in the millennial age bracket), we also had YNPN alumni (more of the Gen X crowd) and the parents and family members of YNPN members who supported the campaign. It was really great to see people of all generations recognizing the value of supporting emerging leaders.
I did notice, however, that our younger supporters were more likely to share that they supported our campaign and encourage others to support the campaign via social media. We suspected that might be the case, which is why it was really important to us that we chose a platform that made social sharing really easy and accessible. We ended up using Fundly, which was a dream to work with and which looked a lot like Kickstarter, something we thought would be familiar and accessible to a lot of donors, particularly millennials.
2. What aspects of the campaign do you think resonated with donors and elicited such a strong response? Was it the message, the communication method, or something else?
I think it was a combination of things. First, I think people were intrigued by our ambitious goal. “Really? You’re going to try to raise $10,000 in 10 days? Ok, I have to see this.”
We found that people were really energized by match days. This is one of the main reasons that our campaign was such a success. People are really motivated by that beat-the-clock element and I think also really enjoyed feeling like their money was having twice the impact.
I also think having a genuine milestone--a 10 year anniversary--gave people a strong reason to pay attention. We wanted to make sure that people were aware of what we’d accomplished in the last ten years and how we planned to continue to build on that success. We also have very specific things that we’re working on over the next year, like launching a national database, that gave people some concrete ways in which we’re investing in our network that they can join us in.
3. What is something that didn't work as planned with this campaign, and what lessons did you take from that?
Well, it’s funny that you ask. We actually thought for several weeks that a big celebrity (I mean, a household name) was going to be able to record a video for our campaign through a personal connection we had. But it was getting down to the wire in terms of planning out the content for all 10 days and whether or not we had this celebrity’s video was going to affect the order of the entire content slate.
So we ended up planning two content slates: one with (celebrity) and one without.
The celebrity connection fell through, but our content and the campaign went so smoothly because of that advance planning. It was a great lesson in the importance of doing all of the work upfront and preparing for a variety of scenarios.
4. In planning the campaign, did you draw inspiration or ideas from previous campaigns or other organizations?
Yes! We were in the midst of planning the campaign when Trish went to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) conference in Baltimore. Before that conference we had been planning a pretty traditional campaign--a couple of emails spread out over 4-6 weeks with folks making individual appeals at the same time.
While at the conference, Trish heard a presentation from the Progressive Technology Project of Austin, Texas on a couple of sprint campaigns they had recently consulted on. Trish emailed us from the conference saying, “Ok, I know this isn’t what we were planning, but hear me out…” When the rest of us on the planning committee heard the idea of doing a shorter, sprint campaign that would tie the 10 year anniversary to raising $10,000 in 10 days, we thought it was a great idea. We knew it would mean a lot more work upfront, but we loved the thought of how a sprint campaign could energize people.
5. Did YNPN's national reach and relatively young status (operating less than 15 years) negatively or positively impact the campaign elements? What lessons can be learned from organizations with similar operating characteristics?
I think our national reach only helped us. We’re really fortunate (for many reasons) to have a fantastic network of chapters and chapter leaders who believe in the value of what YNPN does because they experience it every day. Nearly 20% of our donations were from chapter leaders and we had at least one person donate from 22 of our 40 chapters. Several of our chapters donated to the campaign as an organization.
Even though we’re relatively young, we’ve served tens of thousands of young nonprofit professionals and many of those alumni still continue to support YNPN even as they’ve “outgrown” the network. More than 50% of our original $10,000 goal was raised from alumni of our National Board. I think similar network organizations and organizations that offer powerful experiences would agree that maintaining strong relationships with alumni can be a very effective fundraising strategy. I feel like “alumni engagement” is very hot right now and our experience on this campaign shows that there’s an obvious financial reason why it’s important.
But we also feel strongly that it’s important because the young nonprofit professionals of today are the executive directors, board chairs, and funders of tomorrow. One of our hopes is that as members move on from our network and the designation of “young nonprofit professional,” they don’t lose sight of the importance of developing the emerging leaders they work with. A campaign like this can be a reminder as to the benefits they gained from the network and the great experience they had as a YNPN member and leader.
Thank you to all who so kindly donated, and helped us surpass our goal. You are the reason we can create a powerful and diverse social sector, and we can't wait to see where the next 10 years take us.
In the final week of our #ynpngiving conversation, we wanted to provide a two-part summary of our #ynpn10 campaign. We are so grateful to the many individuals, local chapters, and National Board volunteers who championed our cause and made this possible. We designed the campaign around the number 10 -- attempting to raise $10,000 in 10 days to celebrate 10 years.
We had a couple of goals for the campaign: First, we wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday. Ten years as a national network is a big deal! We wanted to let people know that we were proud to have finished our first decade and excited about what was ahead for our second.
We were specifically raising money for the infrastructure that’s going to power that next decade of our work. Over the last three years, the number of YNPN chapters has grown by 60%! This year YNPN is making a big investment in people, data systems, and resources that are going to take our work to the next level.
What will the funds raised be used for?
YNPN is at a turning point in our development as a network. Over the last ten years, and particularly over the last three, we’ve experienced exponential growth. It’s clear that there’s a real demand for the services, resources, and connections that YNPN provides.
We want to make sure that we have the capacity to meet that demand, so this year we’re focusing on adding the resources and infrastructure that will keep our network sustainable. In 2014, we increased our staff from one person to three staff members. We’re also investing in a database that will be used by all of our chapters across the network. And we’re making a big investment in upgrading the services and support that we offer our local chapters.
We’re so excited about what these projects are going to enable us to do. We want to thank everyone who supported the campaign and we’re looking forward to continuing to build a diverse and powerful nonprofit sector for the next ten years and beyond!
On Thursday, we'll be sharing #ynpn10 Campaign Summary, Part 2: Lessons Learned. Stay tuned!
In our #ynpngiving conversation starter, we've been asking you lots of questions about where you give, why you give, and how you give. When we saw this year's Millennial Impact Report, we couldn't wait to dig in and see how your feedback compared to a larger survey sample. This year, the Millennial Impact Report specifically looked at millennials and corporate cause work -- how important was a philanthropic culture in the workplace? What type of philanthropic culture best motivates and engages millennial employees?
Here are our five takeaways from the report (and some sweet inforgraphics):
1. Millennials continue to factor in a company's cause work in job decisions. Even if they haven't given or volunteered in the past year, 27% of millennials still reported they were interested in a company's cause work during their job search. This number increased in relation to number of hours volunteered in the past month.
2. Millennials prefer volunteering in groups, while using individual talents and skill-sets to help others. This would explain the popularity of larger service projects for companies which utilize a diverse skill-set -- such as a Habitat for Humanity house build. Millennials are an extremely social generation, but they also see volunteering as a way to grow their own skill-set.
3. The longer a millennial is at the organization, the more likely they are to choose donating money over donating time to a company cause.
4. Company-wide service days aren't dead. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 81% of millennials who have been with a company for five or more years still value a company-wide day of service. This number increases among newer employees.
5. Millennials like a three-pronged approach to corporate cause volunteering: company-wide, department-specific, and individual. This was surprising to me, because 'sabbaticals' tend to invoke images of stiff professors and dusty research libraries. But a volunteering sabbatical? That's something I can get behind. What a refreshing idea -- exposing individual employees to diversity, ideas and processes which will allow them to come back as a more inspired, connected worker.
Sometimes, I think nonprofit companies forget their millennial employees are still looking for these things too: company-wide service days and hands on volunteering. As young nonprofit professionals, we can get so caught up in facilitating and providing the volunteering or giving experience for others that we lose track of making our own group (or individual) volunteering a priority. When working for a nonprofit, how can we make sure that we don't lose sight of that volunteer spirit in the midst of work ethic? Personally, this report was a wake up call that no matter how much I work for a nonprofit, those work hours can't replace my own volunteer hours -- while both are valuable, they meet a different need of my individual spirit. Maybe, even, nonprofit organizations need to pick a company cause that is outside their current mission or cause that they volunteer for yearly -- a way to engage staff in a new capacity as individuals, and reconnect with the interconnectedness of the sector. While this type of concerted volunteer effort of employees outside of a nonprofit's given mission or cause seems irrational, it could also spark new connections and innovations within the sector.
Do you disagree? What has been your most fulfilling company volunteering/giving experience?
Seconds after the Grand Jury announcement came out of Missouri last night, my Facebook and Twitter feeds began to fill with #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter posts. Some were from friends expressing sorrow, outrage, disbelief. But most were from the nonprofit organizations I follow. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that organizations like Black Women’s Blueprint, Colorlines, and the Black Youth Project had powerful, thoughtful, full-fledged posts at the ready only moments after the news broke.
What did strike me, however, was that the posts didn’t stop there. #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter posts were flooding my feed from organizations covering a whole host of issue areas - folks like GetEqual, Resource Generation, Community Voices Heard and so many others showed up, each saying in their own way, “This has to stop. We must do better.”
“The nonprofit sector should be the secular conscience of society.”
It was something she said almost in passing, either because she was on her way to a larger point or because she assumed it was already a commonly held belief. Either way, it’s something that has always stuck with me. At the community level, the bold visions and focused missions of our organizations call out our values as a society. Many of us are called to this sector because we feel there is some wrong that needs to be righted or some group of people who is denied access to America’s promises – freedom, justice, health, and well being. Many of us are called to this sector not because we’ve lost faith in America but because we see the nonprofit sector as the way to both help fulfill and hold America accountable to its promise to every person who calls this place home.
I was reminded as I scrolled heavy-hearted through my feed that whatever our focused organizational mission, we also have the responsibility to call out and push back when something runs counter to values as a society. Our organizations have bold visions, and racism has no part in the world we are trying to create. As a sector it is our duty and our privilege to call that out.
Here are some tools to support you along the way:
- Racial Equity Tools
- The Aspen Institute: Ten Lessons for Taking Leadership on Racial Equity
- National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue: Ten Equity & Action Tools from Everyday Democracy
Photo by Elvert Barnes Protest Photography / Flickr.com
Last week I attended the Independent Sector Conference, one of the key convenings for the nonprofit sector. The event spans four days and is jam-packed with social sector goodness; the official conference activities alone can go from 7:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night. With more than a thousand attendees, Independent Sector (IS) is a great place to network and build relationships. But it’s also the kind of event that can be grueling for introverts like me.
As much as I love meeting and learning from other people, after a couple hours of engaging I instinctively start looking for the door.
Oh Savage Chickens, you get me.
While this was my first time attending IS, it wasn’t my first time attending a conference as an introvert who finds being in groups of people for long periods of time draining, no matter how interesting and stimulating the conversation.
Over the years I’ve learned a few practices that help me manage my energy and network in ways that I enjoy:
Build in time to be alone, even if that means missing some of the content. You don’t have to go to every session, particularly if it’s a multi-day conference. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. This was a hard thing for my little rule-following heart to accept, but I realized that managing my energy so I can be an effective relationship builder is more important than catching every single presentation.
You don’t have to mingle on their schedule. These days every conference has at least one networking reception, breakfast, or happy hour. As an introvert, these mix and mingle events are not my favorite way to meet people. But I recently realized that I don’t have to mingle on their schedule; I can set my own networking agenda.
Depending on the event, this might mean arranging meetings ahead of the conference or inviting specific people to join me for meals. It could be gathering a group of people to attend (or skip) a session together. Don’t hesitate to create your own networking spaces in order to connect with people in the ways that you prefer.
Find structured networking opportunities or create your own. One of my favorite networking activities at IS involved small group activities centered around working with an artist or art form (See our Communication Fellow Autumn’s blog post on one of those activities!).
I love structured activities where people create together or share an experience because networking isn’t the sole focus. Look for items in the conference schedule that allow you to do that or create your own opportunities. What about hosting a small game night in your hotel room? Or putting together a scavenger hunt? Structure can reduce the pressure on you to feel like you always have to be on.
You may not meet everyone. And that’s ok. There are some people who can work a room and shake everyone’s hand. It’s ok if you’re not that person. Many introverts excel at building deep relationships so use that trait to your advantage. Rather than beating yourself up for not talking to more people, try to have three or four in-depth conversations instead. You may not leave with 75 business cards but you’ll have something arguably better: several people who know you and your work well.
Pro Tip: Don't do this. It might seem a little weird.
Find an extravert and be their wingwoman or wingman. If you’re attending a conference with a friend or colleague who is the person that shakes everyone’s hand, see if it would be ok for you to check in with them from time to time when you need a moment to catch your breath. They may be happy to help make introductions to the people they’re talking to so there’s less pressure on you to initiate conversations. Use this sparingly--you also need to branch out on your own.
Push yourself. On the first day of IS, I looked at the schedule to see that on one evening there were two networking events scheduled for a total of four hours of mixing and mingling. My first thought was, “Are they trying to kill me?!” But my second thought was, “I can do this.”
I did do it, and I was glad that I did. As an introvert, your first reaction might be to avoid these parts of an event, but I would encourage you to keep in mind how valuable relationship building can be and push yourself beyond that first reaction. It may not be comfortable at first, but you’ll probably be glad you did it.
But at the same time, honor your personality and preferences. There’s a big difference between pushing yourself to be a little uncomfortable and running yourself into the ground. If you feel like your energy is fading and you just can’t talk to another person, leave. It’s ok.
I give you, and myself, permission to honor your personality and preferences and to say goodbye when you feel that it’s time to do so.
We often think of extraversion as the mode of leaders, and for a long time I had difficulty accepting that introversion is the way I’m built. Adapting extraverted settings like conferences to meet my needs using tips like the ones above has helped me realize that extraverts aren’t the only ones who can be great networkers and relationship builders.
If you’re an introvert, here are a few other resources you might enjoy:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- I also recently learned about the Quiet Changemaker Project, which is a learning community for introverted people working to make the world a better place.
After having the chance to attend my first NGen Conference, I wanted to share my favorite tool from the conference than can be used by individuals, local YNPN chapters or organizations. Before I went to NGen, I heard whispers that NGen was fresh, innovative and on point. The Conference did not disappoint.
One of the activities I most enjoyed was 'Networking Reimagined,' where a series of three artists led small groups through different hands-on activities that allowed them to network while looking at trends in the sector, creating collaboratively, and using art in goal-setting. This is where I was introduced to "Draw Your Future," by Patti Dobrowolski.
The concept is simple. You start with one blank piece of paper. On the left, you have your 'Current Reality.;' on the right, you have your 'Desired New Reality.' Starting on the left, you write 1-2 word representations of where you're currently at. After writing each word, you also draw a small picture to visually represent it. It doesn't have to be an exact visual, it could be a question mark or exclamation point around an area of tension, confusion, etc. You do the same thing for the other side, drawing what you want your future to be. In between the two sides are three arrows. After finishing writing down as many words and pictures as possible, you use the arrows to write three "action steps" that can help make that imagined future a reality.
I chose to do my exercise on the individual level. As an example, my 'Current Reality' included graduate school, lack of time for self-development, and financial concerns. In my envisioned reality, I had successfully graduated, landed a full-time job and had time for hobbies (complete with a stick figure yoga woman). You can see my example below, complete with visual proof that even the most un-artistic of individuals can have fun participating in Draw Your Future!
What surprised me most was when Patti shared that studies show people are more likely to complete their goals if they draw it -- even if they don't consider themselves visual learners or artistically inclined. This exercise is great for individuals, YNPN local chapters or organizations. And best of all, Patti has provided a free template of the printed out on her website, so you can get started today! Thanks for sharing your time and talent with us, Patti!
Visit Patti's Ted Talk on Draw Your Future here: http://www.tedxrainier.com/talks/patti-dobrowolski-draw-your-future/
We're excited to announce our latest conversation starter: #ynpngiving.
With #ynpngiving, we hope to engage our members in conversation about where you give, how you give, and why you give. We're not just professionals within the nonprofit sector, we're also donors.
Each week, we'll be featuring one #ynpngiving post on our blog that discusses an issue relating to nonprofit giving trends. Throughout the next three weeks, we'll be sharing relevant #ynpngiving articles via social media and asking questions to get you thinking about how to build you own tradition of giving, what type of giving is most effective and more.
So how can you engage with the conversation starter? As always, we want to hear your opinion via social media! We promise plenty of interactive content to get you thinking about the latest trends in nonprofit giving, and what that means for young professionals. If you find an interesting article, tweet us using #ynpngiving! You can borrow articles or questions we raise to use at your next local chapter meeting as well. There are lots of ways to get engaged, and we look forward to a robust conversation with you!
We hope that you're as excited as we are to deep dive into this topic for the next three weeks. If you have any questions or topics within #ynpngiving that you would like explored more, please leave them in the comments below!
Last weekend, the new Launchpad fellows had the opportunity to travel to Baltimore for a 24-hour retreat. We met the board (amazing), met each other (amazing), and somehow managed to accomplish training and team-building within a 24 hour span (amazing). What surprised me the most when we left was just how much we had been able to accomplish within that short span of time.
I imagine this isn't different than the position many young nonprofit professionals find themselves in. While juggling work, life, family and volunteer commitments, there might not be time for more than a 24-hour board retreat in our schedules. Given our busy schedules, how can we make our board retreats as effective as possible in a short time frame? Below, I give my five tips for making the most of your 24-hours-and-under retreat.
- Plan ahead. Have a schedule, and stick to it. Make sure facilitators have fine-tuned their sections and are ready to lead discussion. Emailing the schedule ahead of time will allow everyone time to prepare and lead to deeper discussion during the retreat. For example, if individuals know to think about strengths and weaknesses ahead of time, you can jump right into a deep, thoughtful SWOT analysis.
- Remove distractions. Provide paper, pens and any other materials attendees might need. Take the distraction and chaos out of the situation by being proactive in gathering necessary materials ahead of time. And snacks, always snacks. In a one-day retreat, you need the full attention of individuals, so even something as simple as removing the distraction of hunger with some snack options will increase the team’s discussions.
- Less review, more discussion. In a one-day retreat, focus on activities that are high in discussion. Items that are high in learning and review -- such as reading up on policies, organization structure and background, etc -- can be saved for later. These things can be emailed out later, and read individually. Other activities -- brainstorming, strategic planning, goal setting, team building, etc -- cannot be done individually. Put those activities at the forefront of your group’s time together, and trust individuals to completely other tasks individually.
- Make it personal. One of the most important parts of the retreat is that individuals walk away with a better understanding of how their role fits into the overall team. At the end of each activity, ask individuals to reflect and share how what you covered impacts their individual role within the team.
- Have fun. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly -- do a fun icebreaker, shake things up with an old-school camp song, or share a favorite YouTube video during a break. Individuals are more likely to continue giving their best effort to a team long after your 24 hours are up if they feel they made a personal connection with the other team members. (Bonus Tip) Food, all the food. Across all cultures, food is a way to build community. Use mealtimes to your advantage as a way to foster natural teambuilding, and save the retreat time for higher-level activities like planning and strategizing. When you have food (all the food), you win (all the wins).
We know many of our local chapters are kicking off with new boards, and hope you find these tips helpful for making your short time together as efficient and effective as possible! What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for effective meetings? What retreat or team building activities stand out to you as most memorable?
If you're applying (or even thinking about applying) for a Launchpad Fellowship or a seat on the National Board, we encourage you to join us for one of our evening Twitter chats in August & September.
This is a great chance to get your questions answered, learn more about the positions, and introduce yourself to members of the selection committees.
Our National Board chats are happening at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on Wednesday, August 20 and Thursday, September 4. Follow along using hashtag #ynpnboard. (And learn more about the National Board and the application process here.)
Many of our former Launchpad Fellows will be logging on to talk about their experience and answer your questions on Thursday, August 21 at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Join us with hashtag #launchpad. (You can find all the info on the Launchpad Fellowships and the application process here.)
If you can't join us on these evenings, you can also always tweet us at @ynpn with questions. We look forward to chatting with you!