Photo from marketingtango.
To celebrate reaching 30,000 twitter followers, Nonprofit Quarterly is hosting a twitter challenge! The nonprofit featured in the most tweets using the tag #np5words will win free ad space and promotion on NPQ's social media sites. Our chapter leaders jumped into this conversation right away!
To celebrate reaching 30,000 twitter followers, Nonprofit Quarterly is hosting a twitter challenge! The nonprofit featured in the most tweets using the tag #np5words will win free ad space and promotion on NPQ's social media sites. Our chapter leaders jumped into this conversation right away!
At last month’s YNPNdc Leadership Conference, I facilitated a panel discussion with two of the most dynamic people I know in the career management and personal branding businesses. Karen Chopra owns a thriving career counseling practice in the district and Davie Uejio who is the Lead for Talent Acquisition at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The conversation was informative, enlightening and inspiring…and almost impossible to distill into a few thoughts. Here are a few key takeaways for me.
- We can’t control what’s happening in the workplace. There is constant change—new careers, new organizations, and new ways to share information. If you step back, you might miss a great opportunity.
- We can control our reputation and our message, what we can contribute and our skills and knowledge.
- We are ultimately in charge of our careers. Although we might not be able to avoid a layoff or suddenly find ourselves working for a not-so-great boss, we can be ready for unexpected change.
To do that, ask yourself these questions to see if you do own your career:
- Do you know what you’d like to do? What lights you up—makes you want to jump out of bed every day because you can’t wait to get started? If you know, write it down—make it yours. Keep adding to it and refining the description. If you don’t, consider everything you read or hear about through the possibility of it to becoming a potential career.
- Where is the work you think needs to be done getting accomplished? What are the careers that will get you there? What are the organizations that are aligned with your personal goals and purpose? Learn more—find people who work there. Ask for informational interviews. Become familiar with what they’re doing. Follow them on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups.
- What skills do you need so your resume will get noticed? If you need to develop new skills or enhance current ones, how will you do it?
- How strong is your network? Who’s in your corner who can talk about your skills? How have you helped others achieve their career goals? They may be the people who can help you now. Continually strengthen your relationships.
- What’s your LinkedIn profile telling others about you? Have you googled yourself lately? Find out what others can easily learn about you. Don’t put anything on the web that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. Look for what might harm you and work to have it removed.
- Take action every day to move your career forward. Tomorrow will bring surprises—both good and bad. The key is having clarity about what you want, knowing what you need to get there and creating the message that communicates that you can uniquely do the work.
Like many YNPN members, my early life experiences informed my professional life today. Active in my church in childhood and adolescence, I developed a deep commitment to social and environmental justice, and joined multigenerational teams volunteering for a variety of causes. In college, I was lucky to study abroad through Semester at Sea, which (as I then described) “smacked me in the face with my own privilege”, exposed me to extreme wealth disparity and racism around the globe, and caused me to question most of what I knew: my middle-class lifestyle, my major life choices, and my role in a world that was both so beautiful and so broken. As I began to look for full-time work following college, I was certain – fervently, urgently so – that I wanted to devote my life to social change, and my professional life to the nonprofit sector.
Already then, I knew my tendencies - to overextend myself, to neglect my own health, and to fuel my work out of guilt, urgency, and a sense of martyrdom – which left me drained and burned out, often. In my first full-time job, as a national community organizer, I epitomized workaholism and experienced physical and emotional pain because of it. I began to despair that I would not be able to live out my calling to work for social change, without sacrificing my health and relationships in the process.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to enroll in a graduate school launching a first-of-its-kind experiment: a Masters program in Social Change at a theological school (seminary). The program sought to provide not only professional and academic training, but also spiritual and emotional grounding, to social change leaders. I was encouraged to make sense of my own experience, and place it in a larger context of social movement history. I explored common struggles social change leaders experience in their professional and personal lives, and how these may differ across class, race, gender, and other identities. I devoted my final project to “Personal Sustainability and Mental Health in Social Movements”, using my own story as a central narrative. It was another privileged experience, to immerse myself in the study and implementation of “self care”. That program would have been difficult or impossible to complete if I hadn’t been a middle class, school-loan beneficiary without dependents.
The “self care” theme has shaped my life and career ever since. In most leadership roles, from counseling youth to managing political campaigns, I experienced external factors (i.e. workplace environments) and internal factors (i.e. my own psychology) that predisposed me to burnout – reminding me again and again to sharpen my strategic work-planning, boundary-setting, and care-taking skills. I’ve found purpose in mentoring and training others on how to cultivate health, care, and sustainability within their own social change efforts. And, I’m constantly trying to understand how my social location – for example, as a white middle-class formally-educated woman – impacts my needs for, and practices of, “self care”.
This theme came up immediately when I began working with YNPN National, via the LaunchPad Fellowship program. As Talent Coordinator, I work with our Director, Trish, to evaluate the experience of YNPN leaders – for example our LaunchPad Fellows – and systemically cultivate a work environment in which we reflect openly on our challenges, support each other in taking care of ourselves, and plan and execute our work in strategic and sustainable ways. It’s an awesome challenge.
In our most recent LaunchPad staff meeting, I offered a professional development presentation centered on an essay called “An End to Self Care” by my friend and collaborator B Loewe, which builds on “Communites of Care” by Yashna Padamsee. Both were published in Organizing Upgrade, an online forum for community organizers to share and develop strategy. “An End to Self Care” came out last fall, and ignited a national conversation.
The article doesn’t so much seek to end self-care, as reframe it. Self care, as it’s usually understood, is an individual – rather than collective – task, often inaccessible and irrelevant to those who aren’t middle-class people with leisure time (i.e. no family dependents). Self care is often framed as another “to do” on an already unwieldy workload, leading to unrealistic, unattainable expectations that can make us feel bad about failing to adequately care for ourselves.
There are many insights in the article, so I’ll paraphrase just a few key points:
Building a society in which all are able to be healthy, cared-for and sustainable requires critical reflection on the possibilities and limitations of the nonprofit sector.
The experience of working for non-profits and social change efforts needs, in many ways, to be reconstructed or reframed to become a more energizing rather than draining experience.
To break out of the isolation often perpetuated by our dominant culture, we must move beyond care for the self and practice collective or community care.
Community care is a collectively liberatory practice which can not only sustain our own involvement in social causes, but enable many more – across class, race, family and other social locations – to join us.
The earlier article “Communities of Care” similarly called for collective/shared care, which unlike self care interrupts and transforms systems on a broader level. Yashna Padamsee, a leader in Healing Justice, or HJ, movements, urges us look at the root causes of why we need care and healing – for example, to explore how ableism is operating in our communities and organizations, and creating unrealistic or unattainable expectations for our work.
The need for care and healing is crucial: according to the Southern Healing Justice Collective, social changemakers are at a particular risk of “spiritual and physical deprivation from trauma, stress and unrest in our movements” and “dying as a result”. “Communities of Care” reminds that just as injustices are interconnected and affect us all, so are and must be our efforts for healing and care. Disability Justice movements are leading the way in showing us that we don’t have to keep doing our work in the same way nor do we need to do it alone.
Organizing Upgrade put together an excellent “Roundup and Re-Frame of the Community Care Conversation” highlighting the large and diverse range of responses when “An End to Self Care” was published last fall. Two of the excellent points:
Rather than self-care, we need self-determined care:
“The messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist.” By loving and caring for ourselves we are fighting the system; “to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other – is radical, it’s self-determination.” - Adrienne Maree Brown
Care is and must be at the core of changemaking:
“True care, whether it is self-centered, community-centered or family-centered is something we should assume is part of change work...Whether people like the analogy or not, we are soldiers fighting a war for human dignity. The key to winning the war is, in part, knowing when to be soldiers and when to be parents, children, siblings, spouses/partners or just human. To learn how to be all of those things effectively requires all of us prioritizing care.” - Subhash Kateel
How have you – personally and professionally – experienced care, health, and sustainability (or lack thereof) as an individual? What about as part of a group or organization? What social factors, such as class, race, gender, and family role – have impacted those experiences? What is your vision of a better world, in which all are cared for – and how do we get there from here? What role can the nonprofit sector play in enacting that vision?
We plan to raise these questions and more throughout YNPN – via the blog, during next week’s national YNPN Leaders Conference, and in more ways to come. Tell us your own thoughts and reactions in the comment section below or on our Facebook, or Twitter, and join the conversation.
By Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
You’re interested in developing your professional skills, but haven’t taken action. Why not? Chances are that you – or your nonprofit organization – are operating under a common professional development myth. I’ve outlined four of these myths below, including reasons they shouldn’t hold you back from developing your best professional self. Hopefully I can convince you and you can convince your organization to invest in professional development.
MYTH #1: It only benefits the individual
Some nonprofits are hesitant to invest time and funds in professional development because they believe it only benefits you, the individual. They worry their investment will walk out the door if you leave the organization. This viewpoint is short-sighted. Yes, the individual gains from professional development opportunities. But having a representative from your organization at conferences, seminars and events is a great opportunity to educate the nonprofit community about your organization’s mission and programs. Having a presence at these events also allows for new partnerships between organizations. Finally, the individual attending – you! – will bring new knowledge back to the organization that can then be applied to programs over the long term.
MYTH #2: It’s expensive
Sure, some professional development opportunities are expensive. But you can also find a number of low-cost or free events. YNPN-TC is a great place to start, offering monthly events at little or no cost. In addition, some more costly events offer scholarships or allow discounted rates for volunteers. If the cost is prohibitive, don’t be afraid to ask if opportunities exist to make the event more affordable.
MYTH #3: Networking doesn’t count
Talking one-on-one with someone over a drink can be just as valuable – or more so – than sitting through a lecture and PowerPoint. People meet and connect with colleagues in many ways, and networking events are one of those opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with having fun while you’re developing your network, as long as you keep it professional. Sometimes the best connections made are those one-off conversations that lead to a new partnership for your organization or a new opportunity for you personally.
MYTH #4: You can’t do it without your organization’s support
While it’s great when your organization supports professional development, this unfortunately isn’t always the case. Don’t let it hold you back. There are many professional development opportunities that take place outside work hours. Happy hour events or weekend conferences are not uncommon, and will allow you to pursue your professional development goals on your own time. Check out the low-cost Minnesota Rising Un/Conference – it’s held in annually in the fall; visit their website this summer for more info on 2013.
Next time you find yourself making an excuse instead of attending a professional development event, make sure one of these myths isn’t behind your reasoning. Take the time to convince your organization – and yourself – that professional development is worth the investment.
Have you run into these, or other, professional development myths? What have you done to overcome them?
Do you have a favorite low-cost professional development event or organization?
Last fall at a conference, I had the chance to sit in on a session facilitated by Kirk Kramer of the Bridgespan Group. During the session, Kirk shared a framework for developing organizational leaders laid out in a recent report written by he and his colleague Preeta Nayak entitled, What’s Your “Plan A” for Growing Future Leaders? If you haven’t had the chance to read the report yet, I highly recommend. It does a solid job of drawing the link between leadership development throughout an organization (especially younger leaders) and the growth and sustainability of any organization. It also couples this development with other key planning processes like budgeting and strategic planning. So Plan A pulls what is often seen as peripheral or an afterthought for most organizations into the center, encourages organizations to be proactive about this process, and (best yet) offers a step by step process for building an organizational culture that supports development. (Who doesn’t love step-by-step?)
Okay back to that conference...
Kirk shared during his session that Bridgespan’s Plan A framework had its roots in the Center for Creative Leadership’s “70-20-10” model. This model, based on extensive research, sets 70 percent on-the-job learning, 20 percent coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent formal training as the optimal mix for adult learning and development.
While I was quite familiar with the Center for Creative Leadership, before Kirk’s session, I had never heard of the 70-20-10 model, but found that it aligned almost exactly with YNPN’s “Pillars of Leadership Development” - four key areas that have our members have identified over YNPN’s 15 years as most valuable to their own leadership development.
The missing link from the 70-20-10 model, however, that so many of our members site as essential to their own growth is “access to a networks.” As I travel the country meeting with members, I hear time and again that skills-based trainings provided by organizations like ours, coaching and mentoring (which chapters are increasingly offering), and a place to apply those skills via “stretch” opportunities on the job or even board service are important pieces of their work to grow as effective change agents. But YNPNers cite just as equally the importance of being able to have these experiences in community and to access and discover new opportunities via the network.
So as giants in the field of sector research and leadership development continue to refine these models for building stronger leaders and more effective organizations for addressing society’s most pressing problems, it is important not to overlook the critical importance of networks. Next generation leaders know that individual and even organizational development falls short without connection and collaboration.
It’s hard to work at nonprofits these days without hearing about the leadership challenges our sector faces.What kind of leaders do we need? Who will lead the sector in years to come? How are we cultivating and supporting the next generation?
Gregory Cendana is tackling these questions as the youngest and first openly gay executive director of theAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American union members and allies to advance worker, immigrant, and civil rights. Although he was selected as the organization’s executive director when he was just 24-years-old in 2010, Gregory has been learning the ins-and-outs of organizing and leadership since he was a teenager.
At home, he heard his father, who emigrated from the Philippines, talk about his concerns with his union. Inspired to help his father and learn more about unions, in college Gregory secured an internship with the very same union that his father belonged to and became involved with campaigns in California and across the country. This led him to running (and being elected) as the president of the United States Student Association. These transformative experiences not only allowed him to develop critical skills in leadership development, public speaking, and coalition building, but also connected him with a mentor who soon encouraged him to apply for the executive director position at APALA.
With the help of a mentor, hands-on experience, and a desire to strengthen workers’ rights, Gregory is entering his third year as executive director.
Do you want to become an executive director of a nonprofit?
Here’s Gregory’s advice:
- Connect with current executive directors: “Get to know executive directors or people in similar positions. If you can, get them as mentors. Learn and understand what makes them good at what they do but also talk about the challenges they face and skills you should you pick up so you can handle the job.”
- Surround yourself with supportive people: “As friendly and gregarious as I am, there are moments when I feel like I am by myself. It’s a reminder of the responsibilities and what comes with the role; being an executive director can be lonely. But if you surround yourself with people that care about you and want to support you it will be easier.”
- Make sure the board is behind you: “When I interviewed for the position, I only met the executive board members, so just five people. At my first in-person board meeting, the majority of our 42-member board—and many were founding APALA members—were there. They said to me, ‘We have been doing this work for decades. We throw our support behind you and care about the next generation.’ This was important because it showed how the ideas I had and leadership’s vision of the organization were aligned.“
- For additional information, Gregory recommends Managing to Change the World by The Management Center.
- Want a leadership position at a nonprofit? Check out these opportunities on Idealist.
Gregory is currently the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and as Chair for the Labor Coalition for Community Action. Named one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 & the “Future of DC Politics”, Gregory is a recognized organizer, speaker, and trainer. Previously, he served as President of the United States Student Association (USSA), where he played an integral role in the passage of the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act and Healthcare & Education Reconciliation Act.
If you loved this article, read more of this series here.
Photo by Robin Maben.
Time Flies When You Waste It
The old saying goes, “Time flies when you are having fun!” It’s true, but time goes at the speed of light when you waste it. There are many professional and personal examples of time-wasting: Ineffective meetings, constantly checking email/Facebook/Twitter/websites, having arguments and making complaints to get your point across, watching bad television, and more. Any of these activities can make a precious hour or two vanish in an instant—time you will never get back.
What's the solution? It’s not as simple as just stopping the activity. The ways we waste time are often habits and routines. Habits and routines are our default response to moments where we haven’t made a choice about what to do next. Habits are broken when we make conscious choices to spend our time on something more valuable.
For example, if we have not made a choice about how we will start our work day, we will likely check email, Facebook and Twitter, and then an hour later make some progress on our task (and then check email, Facebook, and Twitter again).
The key to making more effective use of our time is to intentionally interrupt our routines with something more meaningful or productive. The next time you are tempted to default to a time wasting routine, choose to do something more meaningful instead. Call and thank a partner. Reach out to someone and ask them to give to your organization or buy your product. Start your project. Have the difficult but necessary conversation you have been putting off.
Fortunately, there are a number of amazing resources to help us address some of the time wasters mentioned above. Here are a few:
Effective-ize your meetings. We’ve all been in meetings that leave you wishing you could have your time back to work on something else. I strongly recommend Al Pittampalli’s Read This Before Our Next Meeting(2011). It’s only $5 on Kindle. Buy it. You will thank me later when you are working on an awesome project that will make a difference, instead of sitting in a meeting to plan the next meeting.
Conquer your inbox. Organized Audrey, a consultant who focuses on organization, offers some excellent tips on increasing “email productivity” and how to tackle an overflowing inbox. She coined one of my favorite quotes, “Clutter (including email clutter) is the result of delayed decisions.” Her email advice changed my life—I no longer spend useful time wallowing in my inbox.
Go on a Facebook fast. In May of 2012 I deactivated my Facebook account and didn’t reactivate it until January of 2013. Surprisingly, the greatest benefit I derived from this experience was mental. The impulse to check my News Feed every ten minutes? Gone. The interesting thoughts I had? They were pondered, deliberated, and personally discussed with others, instead of summarized while waiting for artificial affirmation (likes and comments). I more fully experienced each moment without the mental distraction of posting it online.
Automate your tweets. If you are responsible to post status updates and tweets for your organization, use a service like Hoot Suite. My favorite feature of Hoot Suite is the option to schedule posts. In just 20 minutes I can take care of the next two weeks of posts. Now I can better focus on projects at hand without the distraction of writing my next tweet.
Have Difficult Conversations
Unlike meetings, email, and social media, this is not a time waster. Rather, it is necessary, scary, unpleasant, and incredibly powerful. Many have relationships (both personal and professional) that are sucking the life out of them, but fear having conversations to address the situation. I’m here to tell you from personal experience facing your fear is worth it and comes with great reward—fullness of life. If you need help mustering the courage to have difficult conversations or face any challenge, I highly recommend The Flinch by Julien Smith. It's free on the Kindle.
Often people make time fly by wasting it instead of investing it in fun, meaningful, productive, and life-improving activities. Time is life. Today, start making decisions that interrupt your habits. Make conscious choices that maximize fun, memories, and meaning. The fulfillment we get from our lives, work, organizations, and society depend on it.
How have you become more effective and not wasted time?
This video - Dan Pallotta's The way we think about charity is dead wrong - has been rocketing around the internet over the past couple of weeks. Numerous people have emailed it to me and a couple have shared it on my facebook wall. All of them have been asking what I think.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it a few days ago and, honestly, what strikes me most about it is not the central message about how our emphasis on overhead misses both the point and the potential of the nonprofit sector. I don’t think Dan Pallota is saying anything that folks like Kim Klein or GIFT have been making for years - though I always appreicate when someone’s able to underscore an important point eloquently. Mr. Palotta does just that in his TED Talk, so I am very grateful to him.
What struck me most about Dan Pallotta's talk is that he’s trying to shine a bright light on something that isn't necessarily controversial. The vast majority of us agree that the way we think about nonprofit operations is broken. Even folks outside of the sector who don't have an understanding of the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization understand the simplicity of the argument that you can't solve big, complex problems with meager investments. What's difficult is where to and how to begin to change something that has become culturally comfortable, however dysfunctional. What are the first steps an individual, let alone a sector takes in making a fundamental shift in the way that it thinks and operates?
Last month, Rahsaan Harris, executive director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and I posted a blog and sent eblasts to our respective networks about something else that most of us agree is broken - power dynamics between funders and grantees in the nonprofit sector. We titled the eblast Beans & Cornbread - Rahsaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can't get along. But we also talked seriously about this need for a fundamental shift in the way that these dynamics play out and what we see as the role of our generation in facing these issues.
What Rahsaan and I found in our conversations surrounding the post was that agreeing that the fundamental relationship between the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector is problematic wasn't hard. Agreeing that EPIP and YNPN have a unique role to play in addressing these dynamics wasn’t hard either. It’s a conversation that our organizations have actually been having for years and our members are very ready for based on the numerous responses we got to the survey that accompanied the post. What's hard is figuring out what to do next.
After we sent out the post, many responded enthusiastically, “Saying, okay - what’s the plan?” Here’s the honest answer - we’re not really sure. EPIP and YNPN have taken important steps by co-facilitating power dynamics workshops together but know that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that it’s important to set the stage at the National level but also need our members to be talking one on one. We know that this conversation has and will take years (as fundamental shifts tend to) and it will take many of us working patiently together. So we're as curious and excited as everyone else to see where it will lead.
What we do know is that folks are ready - they’re past ready. So we’re ready too. And we’re looking forward to figuring this out together.
Photo by flutterface.co.uk
Over the past couple of months I’ve been conducting interviews with new and veteran YNPN National board members that have given me the chance to take the ideas I’ve developed over the years about talent management, the online research I’ve been immersed in most recently, and use it all to build an overarching narrative - the “YNPN Story”, if you will - about how our organization matches its ambitious goals with the leadership needed to accomplish them.
I wanted to find out how and why YNPN develops leaders in the particular way we do; what distinguishes our culture from the way other organizations operate; how our mission functions day-to-day through our work on the ground. I became curious about the themes that emerged in the interviews: the common joys and challenges these leaders had working in the nonprofit sector and with YNPN; the shared values that guided them in their professions and in building "a movement activating emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector".
I learned that there are many core values that distinguish YNPN and our approach to managing and developing talent. I’ll be pulling these together into a complete report, but here are some highlights so far:
- YNPN is powered by highly intelligent (yet accessible), self-starting, resourceful leaders who are devoted to the nonprofit sector at large, to their chapters, and to collaborating with and mutually supporting each other.
- YNPN provides explicit and implicit opportunities for professional growth and learning, no matter one’s age or experience level. YNPN’s very structure and leadership development model (chapters run by all-volunteer boards) propels its leaders’ careers to new levels.
- YNPN is committed to addressing the challenges that come with being an almost entirely volunteer-driven organization, including leadership turnover, limits on capacity, and the need for greater accountability and institutional memory.
- YNPN’s increased visibility and influence in the nonprofit sector, combined with rapid national and chapter level growth, require greater and more specific attention to the systems and structures it has in place to develop, manage and sustain both volunteer and paid staff.
Really great to see these themes emerge. Again, the full report will be shared soon, but what’s the goal of it? Trish and I aim to make it useful both internally and externally, so we can:
- ensure that attention to organisational culture and talent management are a central, intentional part of YNPN National’s growth in the months and years ahead.
- support YNPN leaders and chapters in conducting their own assessments to make this “network of inspired and engaged leaders” the most effective it can be.
- contribute to large sector conversations about managing talent and developing healthy, positive organizational culture.
Keep an eye out for the report coming soon. Meanwhile, it’s your turn to reflect:
- How would you tell your own story, as an emerging leader in the nonprofit sector? What were the moments that drew you to nonprofit work? How has YNPN met you you on that journey?
- How would you tell the story of your YNPN chapter? How did it first get off the ground? What did it take to get it where it is now, and what will it take for you to thrive in the future? What are the unique values that guide your chapter? What are its own unique structure and culture?
We invite everyone to respond with their reflections in the comment box below. For chapter leaders: to help you answer some of those questions at the chapter level, we’re hosting a series of interactive webinars on “Developing Talent for Chapter Success”. It will be a chance to hear from sector experts and chapter leaders across the country - as well as share your own experiences and questions. Together, we’ll learn about topics including:
- conducting organizational assessments and strategic planning
- developing the right leadership model / structure to meet organizational goals
- managing staff and volunteers effectively and retaining their long-term involvement
The first webinar is this Wednesday, March 20th at 8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific. Talk to you then!
By Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
Image from drsheltie.blogspot.com
Betty Jeanne here again, Talent Coordinator for YNPN National. Over these past couple of months, I’ve been doing lots of reading and online research about talent management. But some of the most valuable feedback for my work - especially in terms of how YNPN thinks about talent management - came via the virtual road trip with all 29 of our active chapters that Trish and Ashley took on in January.
For many YNPN chapters, the fact that so much of our work is made possible by volunteers is a source of great pride and accomplishment. We are a wide network of young nonprofit professionals who have worked passionately and tirelessly to build a thriving and rapidly-growing organization – and that’s on top of juggling our “day jobs” and personal lives! Our organizational culture truly centers and empowers volunteers: at YNPN, volunteers know they have a stake, a voice, a crucial role to play, and an area of expertise to offer and build upon.
Yet, our volunteer-driven nature also presents some real obstacles. For example, most literature on recruiting and developing volunteers in nonprofit organizations assumes that there are paid staff charged with volunteer management. But what about organizations like YNPN, where volunteers are managed by other (busy) volunteers? How do we provide the consistency, availability, and strategic leadership development that volunteers need to do what’s expected of them, and thrive in the process? How do we build volunteer engagement systems into our organizations, when we have little financial or paid staff resources available to make that happen? How do we maintain morale and motivation when we are bumping up against real limits of volunteers’ capacity?
What we learned is this talent quandary looks different for each chapter: Some are looking for better ways to recruit people into their leadership structures – especially folks that lend all manner of diversity - and perhaps wondering if the leadership structure needs to be revamped in order to bring new people in. Others might excel at recruitment, but struggle with retention: for example, how to build an ongoing ladder of engagement which develops leaders as they get more and more involved in YNPN. Some chapters want to strengthen the ways they orient and train leaders when they come on board, and find the most appropriate roles to build on their talents and interests. Others are at the point of considering hiring paid staff, and evaluating whether this is the best approach to growing their organization.
To help our chapters with all of these undertakings, I’ve been wading through all sorts of information on talent management. Much is geared toward human resources professionals in for-profit organizations – though there are plenty of transferable lessons for the non-profit sector. Even among articles geared toward nonprofit organizations, I’m scouring to find more resources that speak directly to YNPN’s situation, as an almost entirely volunteer-driven organization.
But because we also heard that our chapters learn best when they learn from one another, we are thrilled to offer an interactive webinar series this spring to foster dialogue and resource-sharing on talent management among our chapters. Some of the topics we’ll address include:
- What leadership structures are our chapters using, and what are they rationale behind them? What structures are serving chapters well, and which are posing challenges?
- Thinking creatively “beyond the board”: What are other models of volunteer engagement – committees, chapter “ambassadors”, and more – that folks are experimenting with?
- Tools on how to identify the core goals of your organization, and develop an appropriate talent pool to meet them.
- Lessons from YNPN National about developing talent to meet our goals. For example: how the hybrid volunteer/staff model of LaunchPad Fellows was developed, and how it’s helping YNPN National achieve success.
These live webinars will be happening Wednesday, March 20th and Tuesday, April 16th at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific. We’ll record them for folks who can’t make it or want to refer back to the content, and we’ll be providing print resources to provide additional tools and resources. Keep an eye on this blog, our Facebook and Twitter, and your inbox for complete details.
Meanwhile, check out last month’s blog post for more on how YNPN is developing dynamic strategies and systems for talent - volunteer, staff, and board - recruitment, management, and development.
As always, we want to hear from you. Are you a YNPN chapter struggling with or testing out solutions to some of these issues? Do you work in other parts of the sector and face similar challenges? Leave your comments below, and, if you’re a chapter leader - make sure you join us for those webinars. We hope you’ll join the conversation!
By Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator