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
New Board, Clear Vision
Have you ever had that experience where you decide to make something from a recipe you found online? You get the exact ingredients, follow the steps to the letter, and then you're still kind of shocked when it comes out looking like it did in the photo on the food blog?
I think that's exactly the sort of experience I found myself having a few weeks ago as I stood in the lobby of the Ford Foundation watching the 2013 YNPN National Board arrive for the first day of our board retreat.
Back in 2011, the YNPN National Board recognized that we needed a significant overhaul of our board structure in order to best support the organization that we were becoming - a staffed nonprofit overseeing an increasingly sophisticated network with growing influence in the sector. Under the ever-patient guidance of the Marla Cornelius from CompassPoint, we dove into the arduous process of really laying out what we wanted to accomplish at this exciting-but-kind-of-weird phase of our organizational growth, and what sort of governance structure we’d need to guide us into our next phase.
Pausing to take stock is hard for any organization, but especially hard for organizations like YNPN where the board essentially serves as staff. It meant that, for almost a full, uncomfortable year we had to do a lot of what felt more like talking than doing. It meant that we had to say no to opportunities that felt like they would disappear and direct support for our chapters went bare bones. It meant we didn’t recruit new board members for a full cycle and current board members carried a bigger load. It meant that some of those people left frustrated and the ones who stayed felt stretched.
But it also meant that when we’d finally agreed upon a new structure, what looked like a simple chart had a solid layer of critical conversations underneath it about the work laid out in each of those boxes and the types of people we believed should take seats within that structure. It was a little like staring at the recipe on the food blog.
And we couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the recipe turned out. The 2013 YNPN National Board members represents all the things we love about YNPN and aspire for the sector to be: They are sharp, they are passionate, they are fun, they believe in possibilities and they are grounded and skilled in the work that needs to be done.
It was with this group, that we were able to develop for the first time almost 5 years a mission and vision statement for YNPN that feels totally resonant. Make no mistake, the process for arriving at these statements was challenging and actually did reveal the true diversity in the room. But under the expert facilitation of long-time YNPN consultant, Caroline Bolas, we were able to agree upon ideas, phrases, and words that spoke for each of us. We began by looking to the statements of our chapters for inspiration, then reflected on our own hopes and dreams for the world and for the sector, then zeroed in on the unique roles and responsibilities of YNPN, the network and YNPN, the National organization.
We arrived here:
Our Vision ("what the world will look like if YNPN is successful"):
Stronger communities propelled by a network of inspired and engaged leaders.
Our Mission (YNPN's role in making this vision a reality):
The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) is a movement. We activate emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector.
And from here, we’re so excited to move forward with all of you.
But we’d also like to know what you think! What resonates with you or rubs you about this new mission and vision for YNPN National. (Chapter leaders, especially - we’d love to hear from you!) Leave your comments below!
Betty Jeanne here and I’m thrilled to be in dialogue with all of you. As this blog recently announced, I’m one of the LaunchPad fellows working with YNPN National this year. The focus of my work is on talent management: how YNPN (and the larger nonprofit sector) recruits, develops, and retains leaders for our crucial work. Part of my task is evaluating and strengthening the internal systems and structures YNPN uses for talent management. However, I’m especially eager to contribute to a sector-wide conversation about the topic - and to hear from all of you about your own wisdom and experiences.
As I began working with YNPN, I found great alignment between my own vision for the nonprofit sector, and that of our national organization. We were asking similar questions: How do you best support the exceptional leaders - both paid and volunteer - to make our vision a reality? What unique opportunities and challenges does the nonprofit sector face with leadership development? What best practices have YNPN chapters developed around talent management, and how can we amplify those lessons to be shared nationally?
Personally, my approach to talent management reflects my overall orientation to nonprofit leadership. My work centers on relationship; on building and leveraging a diverse network in service of an organization's mission and vision. I support the holistic wellbeing of both paid and unpaid leaders, knowing their experience – from recruitment to retention – plays a crucial role in determining an organization's success.
I’m aware that the practice of talent management (TM) is rapidly changing due to shifts in the nonprofit sector, economic and political climates, generational turnover in the workforce, and new technological developments. We will need greater innovation and creativity to first identify the human resources (or “people power”) needed to accomplish an organization’s goals, then to find ways to strategically meet those needs.
Some of the lessons I’ve gathered about talent management:
- Organizations have their own unique SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for talent management (TM). A strategy for TM must consider these factors in order to enable an organization reach its particular goals.
- The nonprofit sector specifically requires us to value and develop both unpaid (volunteer) talent and paid staff, and to explore hybrid models of paid and unpaid staffing.
- Understanding and addressing generational differences – for example, how to connect more effectively with an increasing workforce of tech-immersed “Millennials” – is essential. Fostering intergenerational community contributes to organizational vitality overall.
- More than ever, professional and personal lives are managed through social media and mobile platforms: our methods of outreach must respond to this trend.
- Increasing turnover rates call us to a greater emphasis on retention that responds to leaders’ individual needs. Personally, I am passionate about one-on-one support of leaders, as well as strengthening overall morale and teambuilding.
- Organizations must combine external recruitment with internal development (building skills and leadership among existing leaders) to ensure the talent they need.
- Leaders need to feel a positive connection not only to an organization’s brand, but to the underlying values that guide its work.
- We can learn so much from intentionally observing and evaluating the experience of both current leaders (retention), as well as potential candidates (recruitment).
- Talent management must be an ongoing, intentional process that engages all stakeholders – staff, volunteers, board members, donors, etc. – in building the strongest organization possible.
Most of all, I’m eager to learn from all of you about your own experiences with talent management, and exchange ideas for how to make this part of our work even stronger. In the comment box below, I’d love to hear:
- How are the points above showing up in your organization? Where are you struggling? Where are you making inroads?
- What great resources or insights have you come upon lately in these areas?
Chapter leaders: keep an eye out for an invitation for you to contribute your own lessons, questions, and best practices on talent management in the coming months. We’ll be sharing tools and resources over social media, and exploring the topic more deeply on the YNPN blog.
by Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
Committed to nonprofits?
Ready for a leadership position?
Want to help lead the growing YNPN movement?
We'd love to work with you!
YNPN National board members have the unique opportunity to play a critical role in the development and growth of the YNPN network across the U.S., to help shape a growing national organization, and to work to build a stronger nonprofit sector.
Participation on the national board is also an excellent professional development opportunity AND you get to work with a fun and highly motivated team of passionate individuals (see photo above:)
We encourage all those interested to apply! Candidates reflecting the following attributes especially would help add to our board diversity:
- young professionals between the ages of 22 and 28
- people of color
- those living in the midwest, pacific northwest or south (including Florida)
- current or former members of local YNPN chapters
- those with expertise in one of the following areas: advocacy, strategic planning, financial planning, or technology
Click here to apply or to learn more about serving on the YNPN National Board of Directors. Applications are due by Friday, October 26th at 8pm ET. In the meantime, feel free to email us at email@example.com with any questions!
This featured blog post originally appeared on YNPN Chicago's Blog and was written by YNPN Chicago board member Aaron House.
Serving on an ALL-VOLUNTEER board means something very different than serving on a traditional board. It means you’re accountable. It means you’re the workhorse. It means the big ideas you share during monthly discussions might just end up right back in your lap.
“That’s a wonderful suggestion… I’ll write that down as an action item for you this month.”
This is really what happens; they show up in the board meeting minutes in red- your name next to them.
The first time it happens you’re often not sure what to make of it.
“Um.. well, I was just saying that was something we should consider.”
“No no. We think it’s just a smashing great idea. Fan-Tas-Tic. We can’t wait to see what you put together to present next month”
“I’m sorry, to present?
And then it happens- you find yourself talking in italics. Not sure how to get out of it.
Wanting to say, “I’m really busy this month, I don’t have time to do all the prerequisite research required to pull this off, to put together a proper presentation, to make this idea into an actual, well actual reality. I was just talking about it in an abstract sense, as something our organization should do eventually, once we have some additional resources and capacity (maybe if you just keep talking and using board code words like “capacity” you’ll get out of it… you’re thinking of working the word “silo” into your next sentence). This isn’t something we want to have a false start with, you know, it’s something we want to do right from the get-go, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m, well, where we’re… taking on… challenge… board responsibility… um… mentality… Silo!”
You think this all through in your two-second pause, including the rebuttal.
“So you want somebody else to run with this one, huh? You think their time isn’t as valuable, do you? You think they should be your little worker bees, huh huh? You want to just come here and talk and talk and not have any responsibilities outside of the board room?”
You keep beating yourself up, including other random things that generally make you feel guilty; like that second hot dog you ate at lunch today (extra ketchup).
You hear the response in your head, it’s a bit silly and dramatic, but you don’t want to let your fellow board members think you aren’t up to the challenge. That maybe you’re just hear to round out an already pretty impressive resume, that you’re trying to skate by without doing any heavily lifting.
SO instead you say...
(read on at YNPN Chicago's Blog)
About the author: Aaron is a long time resident of Chicago, currently working as the Training Manager at the University of Chicago's central office URA (University Research Administration). He believes in the power of words and clear communication.