Sliding Doors: Leaders Building Leaders

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.

As we celebrate the power of leaders building leaders, I wanted to share with you reflections on the impact YNPN has had atvarious points in my life and career.


 YNPN Denver: Where My Governance Passion Began

Denver_Pics_for_website.jpgMy first board experience was with YNPN Denver while I was in graduate school getting my Masters in Nonprofit Management. What was so special about the experience was that there was a learning lab of other young professionals where we could ask questions, explore new ideas, and take calculated risks.

I couldn’t name just one person to acknowledge for because we were a team. People like Adrienne Mansanares, Sarah Marino, Denise Delgado, Jeremy Duhon, Lydia McCoy, Alyssa Kopf, Noah Atencio and others were what made serving on the YNPN Denver board such an amazing experience. The experts and mentors I was exposed to such as Richard Male opened my eyes not just to the theories of nonprofit leadership, but also to the practice.

Today one of the focuses of my consulting practice is board governance and without this opportunity who knows if and when I would have discovered this passion and had the opportunity to make it part of my life’s work.


YNPN San Diego: A New Chapter Opens

San_Diego_for_website.jpgMy experiences with YNPN Denver proved invaluable when I moved to San Diego. I didn’t know a soul in that city other than my partner at the time. As I searched for the local nonprofit network I discovered there was nothing like YNPN in San Diego yet.

So I decided I would start a YNPN chapter there myself and set up a website and bought business cards. By true serendipity I met the one and only Heather Carpenter the day she was kicking off her own event to launch a YNPN chapter in San Diego!

Combining forces, we signed up 40 people at the first event and I met the talented Lenise Andrade, Bunmi Esho, Megan Lim, Jaci Feinstein, Mariel Berry, Cynthia Skogerboe, Jessica Rodgers, Lisa Farnan, Joe Buehrle and so, so many more over the coming weeks, months, and years. I can’t imagine what my life in San Diego would have been like without this amazing team of people who inspired and supported me.

Through YNPN San Diego, doors were opened to an entire community of brilliant leaders. I got to work with people like Sue Carter-Kahl, the Executive Director for Volunteer San Diego, who took a risk and worked with us to co-design fiscal sponsorship for the organization and Linda Katz, who introduced us to the community and was (and continues to be) a champion for the organization. Through Linda, I joined Women Give San Diego and was able to begin philanthropic practices I’ve continued to this day. Nancy Jamison, my manager at San Diego Grantmakers, taught me so much about strategy and patience. I have grown so much more confident and skilled because of her guidance and modeling.

Without YNPN, I would have been a transplant in a new city looking for opportunities and a community. With YNPN, I was connected to a network of people who invested in and inspired me and whose influence I still feel today.


YNPN San Diego: Building LeadersYNPN San Diego

YNPN is founded on the idea of leaders building leaders and during my tenure as the chair of YNPN San Diego I knew I was in a unique position to develop our chapter’s next leaders. As I had seen other YNPN board members do, I began to coach and groom others and provide them with additional opportunities and responsibilities.

Jaci Feinstein and Mariel Berry took over for me when I left San Diego to return to Colorado. Not only did they thrive in the systems that we had created together, but they also shared my philosophy of learning and excellence. In some ways I was a mentor, but it’s more accurate to say that we taught and learned from each other side-by-side and together built up each other and our chapter.



The opportunities to lead and the people I’ve connected with through YNPN have had an indelible impact on me as a nonprofit leader and consultant in the field. Sometimes I can’t believe that I own my own consulting firm and am living my dreams of nonprofit leadership!

I always have those sliding doors in mind. I know that my life and career would look very different if it weren’t for YNPN and the specific leaders I came in contact with as a result of the network. I’m supporting YNPN because I want other young leaders to have access to the kinds of resources, people, and ideas that will open doors and change their lives. I want tentured leaders to know that YNPN is an incredible resource to find and build the next generation of leaders of today and tomorrow.

Emily is generously matching all donations to our #BuildingLeaders campaign until Monday, October 5!

Join Emily in supporting YNPN!


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