YNPN Blog: Resources, People, Ideas

12 Days of YNPN: YNPN Turns 10

This year we celebrated our 10th anniversary as a network, and we can't wait to see what the next decade brings. To celebrate, we threw a huge campaign (#ynpn10), surpassed our fundraising goal (by double) and ate some cake!


Photographic proof that within every small child is a budding YNPN leader! Or at least we think so...

Check out our #ynpn10 campaign follow-up posts:

Part One: Results Summary

Part Two: Lessons Learned

12 Days of YNPN: And then there were three.

One of our major moments from 2014 was the hiring of our second and third staff members.

A bit of history: even though YNPN National was established in 2004, we didn't become a staffed organization until 2011 with the hiring of our National Director Trish Tchume. For two and a half years, Trish held down the fort, raising money to increase our capacity and leading the network through tremendous growth.

Then in April 2014 we hired Jamie Smith, our second staff person. Then in December we hired Elana Needle, our third staff person.

We are so excited to welcome Elana and Jamie to the team. Increasing our staff from one person to three people has opened up new possibilities for YNPN and set us up for major success and growth in 2015!

Meet Elana Needle - Our N of 1

L to R: Jamie, Trish, and ELANA!  (To answer your question: Yes. Yes she is rockin’ a Roots Christmas sweater)
People usually use the term “N of 1” to call themselves out when they know they’re making a gross generalization based on a small body of evidence.

“By the way, you have to make sure you repeat your extra pickles order at this place.  They always, always forget.”

“Always always?”

“Well they forgot last time I was here so...well...N of 1.”

Now, I’m a fan of sound data as much as the next person, but every once in awhile an N of 1 can do a pretty solid job of giving you all the evidence you need.  For example, we’re choosing to believe that Elana Needle, our new Data Systems Director, is what the entire nonprofit sector workforce will look like in 15 years.  Okay, well maybe it won’t look like her, specifically, but I do believe that what now feels like the incredibly unique (and fortuitous!) combination of skills, experiences, and interests that she brings will become more and more common.  And it’s exciting to think about all the ways this will transform the way we work for change.

Early in 2014, YNPN went through an intensive Theory of Change process that made clear to us,  if we had any chance of achieving our audacious goal building a diverse and powerful social sector, we needed dynamic data and communications systems. So in the posting for our newly-developed Data Systems Manager position, we explained that we were looking for someone who could help YNPN:

  • Become the representative voice of young nonprofit professionals (YNPs) across the country
  • Develop a data platform that provides robust space for member-to-member connections, chapter-to-chapter connections, and network-to-sector connections.
  • Create a data-positive culture – which means respect, skill, and enthusiasm for data-backed decision making – amongst our chapter leaders and members that will improve the way our whole sector thinks about and uses data.

Almost immediately after posting we started to hear from the naysayers - folks explaining to us that the person we were searching for didn’t exist.  You might be able to find someone who can set up and manage a database, they said.  But there’s no way you can find someone who has a mind for all that AND can rally an entire network to be engaged and excited about the possibilities of data.  

That person just doesn’t exist, they said.

But then we also started to hear from these people who supposedly didn’t exist, so many of them from right within our network - people with the unique combination of skills we were looking for who came by these in equally unique and interesting ways.  They were library scientists and policy analysts and computer game developers.  Many of them had been working in the private sector or were working in the nonprofit sector and thought that their interest in data meant that they would spend their careers relegated to dark corners of the social sector.

So in their letters to us and in their interviews, many of these same folks talked about how surprised and encouraged they were to see a position like this prioritized for an organization as small as ours.  We, in turn, were thrilled to find that there actually were people out there with the right set of skills we were looking for - not a deluge but enough to make us hopeful.

When we saw Elana’s resume, however, and finally had the chance to interact with her in person, we knew we’d found the one.  Her education ranged from a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies to a PhD in Social Welfare (did you even know that was a thing?  We didn’t, but how cool is that?)  She’d spent the last six years building, training folks on, and evaluating the U.S. pilot of a very technical British program aimed at reducing childhood obesity.  And in her spare time, she was researching and writing on topics like, “Race, Space, and the Urban South.”

We assumed from her resume that she had a mind for data and analysis but did she have the personality to engage our network and to fit our organizational culture?  Within moments of our first in-person interview, there was no question.  Elana immediately dispelled all the myths we’d been hearing from the naysayers about who can be a data jock.  First: she is a she (apparently the ladies can do numbers too!  Who knew??)  Second, she’s a border crosser - able to navigate between the wonk world and the world that the rest of us occupy with ease.  Most importantly, she so obviously gets that data is meant to be in service of greater goals - like understanding the impacts of race and space - it is not a goal in and of itself.

Given all this, we naturally feel incredibly lucky and proud to have Elana join YNPN as our Data Systems Director and third staffer.

We know that she is the right person at the right time to help us achieve our audacious goals.  But we’re also excited for what the fact that someone like Elana signals for the future of the sector in general.  We’re willing to use our N of 1 to point to an exciting trend in the diversity of fields, majors, and backgrounds that are making their way to the sector.  Or stories of how those currently in the sector are building their knowledge base in areas that go beyond traditional nonprofit management to strengthen the field - everything from organizational development to somatics.

There is a growing realization that the complex work of building a just society requires an equally complex combination of talents.  We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Elana as both an example and as a new partner in building the sort of network that we believe is necessary to support these emerging leaders.  Here’s to the future of YNPN!

12 Days of YNPN: YNPN Members Rock

This year, we are especially thankful for you. Yes, you. Our YNPN members inspire us every day with their passion, energy and innovative ideas on how we can build a more powerful and diverse social sector. From planning leadership awards to networking power hours to panel discussions, you stepped up and took YNPN to new heights this year.

How has YNPN impacted your life this year?
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Special thanks to YNPN Grand Rapids, YNPN Triangle NC, YNPN Chicago, YNPN San Diego, and YNPN Austin for the photos!

12 Days of YNPN: Thank you, YNPN National Board!

On the 5th day of #12daysofYNPN, we are thankful for our five, extraordinary board members who rolled off this year. This year, five of our stellar board members rolled off to continue tackling their ambitions and transforming the social sector with their own talents and skillsets. We are so grateful for the time they spent serving YNPN in these critical, formative years: helping us establish a sense of identity, direction and purpose that will truly enable us to build a diverse and empowered social sector. They have brainstromed with us, fundrasied with us and encouraged us throughout the way.
When we think of you leaving, we look like this:


Because we'll miss you so, so much... but we're also Lorde-esque proud of you and know you're about to go create awesome change in the sector and keep serving!

Thank you, Lydia McCoy, Justin Keller, Darrell Scott, Cat Beltmann, and Stephanie Lin Miller!

YNPN Board_group shot

Guest Blog: Results in Action from American Express Leadership Academy

The following guest blog was written by YNPN National Board Member, Jessie Bustamante. Thank you, Jesse, for sharing your lessons learned from the American Express Leadership Academy and how you're utilizing them months after the Academy wrapped up! 

How often do you get to spend nearly 5 days solely focused on your own leadership development? Hmmm… probably never, right?

I was extremely honored to be one of eight YNPN Chapter Leaders across the country selected to participate in the American Express Leadership Academy at the end of October, 2014. If I tell you it was life-changing it’d be a lie because it was so much more than that and it’s hard to put into words how grateful I am for having this opportunity because of the YNPN network and the value that our partners, such as American Express, can see.

We spent one full week diving into various assessments, tons of lessons about feedback, team-building, conflict resolution, the list goes on & on!

Leadership assessments we completed:

  • 360-degree assessment - a method of systematically collecting opinions about an individual's performance from a wide range of coworkers. This could include peers, direct reports, the boss, the boss's peers — along with people outside the organization.
  • FIRO-B - a unique instrument that doesn’t actually “measure” anything. Instead, it provides a score that is used to estimate how comfortable an individual is with a specific behavior which includes Inclusion, Control & Affection(expressed vs. wanted behavior) 

To give you an idea of my takeaways, here is the recap I sent my team:

“… I spent 5 days last week diving deep into my strengths and potential areas of “derailment” in my career.
The biggest take away I have is the self-awareness of how I can be the best leader possible and ensuring that I am effectively working with all of you to support your individual endeavors.
An area that I hope to make some changes are around incorporating regular feedback in meetings, conversations, etc. and providing more opportunities for growth for those in our office.
I am hoping you can help me by being open and honest when I ask for feedback so that I can be a more effective leader. This process will be ongoing and you will receive another brief survey in the next few months to see if you have seen any changes in my leadership behaviors.”

Just as I mentioned above, the goal after all of these assessments were layered on top of one another were to be self-aware. Self-aware of the fact that we all have strengths, but we all have “opportunities for derailment” as well. The only way we can be the best leader possible is to be aware of these & find ways that will help us navigate through the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly.

From here it’s up to us to put our new knowledge into practice be being aware of who we are and ensuring that we are leading environments that are effective, positive and supportive for all. For myself I learned that building and supporting my team was very important to my position and could use more of my time.

Therefore I have started using more solution-based questions and coaching questions to ensure that I am asking for the feedback I need from my team members and ensuring that they are given the chance to truly express themselves. I have been very open with those around me to let them know that I am listening to the feedback I received (specifically from the 360-degree assessment) and trying some new things to continue improving myself and how our team functions.

The Leadership Academy was just a continuation of my leadership journey, but definitely one of the highest points of my career. So next year when you see this opportunity come across your e-mail, be sure to take advantage of this and you’ll understand why I am on such a “high” right now.

Thank you, American Express & YNPN, for making this a reality for me.

JesseBustamanteHeadshotJessie Bustamante is the Executive Director for the American Lung Association in California – San Diego. She is an active YNPN National and YNPN San Diego Board Member because she knows the value of the YNPN movement and has enjoyed watching its growth over the past four years, but is more excited to see what the next 44 bring! Jessie is originally from Chicago before moved to Arizona where she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies and now resides in San Diego where she’s been for two years with her husband, Luis, and their Australian Shepherd, Cujo. If you’re looking for Jessie beware that she is training for a full marathon in May 2015 so you may be running to catch up with her… literally.
Connect with Jessie: Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / LinkedIn

12 Days of YNPN: 2014-2015 Launchpad Fellows

The YNPN Launchpad Fellows program was  developed as a way for talented folks who are interested in building their skills and experience in a very specific area to lend their time and talents to a fast-growing, dynamic organization. It allows us to provide professional development experience, while growing our internal capacity at the same time. This year, we were thrilled to welcome  a truly talented and special group of Launchpad Fellows.
From planning conferences, to building up the leaders site, to helping raise funds, our Launchpad Fellows have already made a lasting impression on YNPN. We can't wait for the next eight months with them!


Get to know the team with our Launchpad Fellow bios!

12 Days of YNPN: The 2014 Conference & Leaders Institute

mcn-300x300.jpgIf you followed along with the 12 Days of YNPN in 2013, you know that we were already pumped for this year's conference last December. And it didn't disappoint.

The YNPN National Conference & Leaders Institute is our annual gathering of YNPN chapter leaders. Here are the highlights of #ynpn14, held June 26-28, 2014 in the Twin Cities and co-hosted by YNPN & YNPN Twin Cities.










12 Days of YNPN: Welcoming New Chapters

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!

YNPN Birmingham


YNPN Hampton Roads


YNPN New Jersey



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!

#ynpn10 Campaign Summary, Part 2


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.