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?
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?
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
Written by Alex Jones and cross-posted from Toronto Social Circle
The Happiness Principle: Social Networking Events and Overall Happiness
A Harvard Medical Review Study showed that happiness is contagious. James H. Fowler PhD is famous for his research on social networks and their affects on happiness. James H. Fowler’s breaking research also led him on to the Colbert Report.
Fowler’s research shows the power that social networks are contagious. For example, people are more likely to develop obesity if they communicate with other people who are gaining weight. Also, the study showed that people were more likely to give up smoking if people within their social network were giving up smoking.
Therefore, attending social events will increase your happiness. The reason is that you are meeting new people and you are increasing your likely hood of meeting happy people. The more people you meet, the more happiness is possible.
The argue could also state that the more people you meet the more depressive people you would meet. However, if you meet someone who doesn’t float your boat, you do not have to communicate with them.
The data is conclusive that increasing social networks will increase your happiness.
When you increase your network you are increasing your possibilities. It's a game of numbers. The potential is greater. Sometimes an organized event may be your best bet in these cases. If you are shy, or not comfortable, an organized event is the perfect place to go. Everything is set up for you, all you have to do is show up.
Initiating games or other events can aid in bringing about a more familiar vibe and let people loosen up a bit. However, statistics show that you need to put yourself out there, and meet people. Having a healthy social life is proven to increase your overall happiness.
1. How to find out what's going on in your city?
The internet is probably the best place to go. Search events in the city or other keywords that might bring out what you're looking for. There are some major companies that provide events by people in the city.
2. Look to the people you know.
See what they are doing. They might be able to point you in a direction of a place to meet people.
3. Through your network.
This is the most traditional of all the routes. Go out with the people you know. Eventually you will meet their friends, so on and so forth.
However, in reality, your social network is determined by your willingness to meet people. Striking up a conversation with someone at a coffee shop might will surprise you. People are out there to mingle, you just need to be ready for the responses.
One also needs to increase their demographic. Meaning the more you limit yourself to only meeting a certain type of people, the more you are limiting your capability of meeting people. It's a game of numbers, and the more people you will meet the more likely chance you will meet people.
My Five Week Networking & Job Blitz
A little over a year ago I found myself in uncharted territory. I had recently completed my master’s degree in nonprofit management and was looking to change careers from the faith-based nonprofit sector, where I had been for five years, to the general nonprofit sector and I didn’t know where to begin.
I began meeting with a family friend who became my career coach. Through her support and “assignments,” I started the craziest five weeks of my life which I now call my “five week networking blitz.” At the end of the five weeks I had met with 25 nonprofit professionals, applied for ten jobs, had three interviews and took a new position. My career search had become my full-time job.
As I look back on my five week networking blitz, there are six takeaways which made me successful in my career search.
You are looking to make connections not just get a job
Yes, the end goal is to find a job but don’t expect every conversation to be about getting a job. Not everyone is hiring but the connection you are meeting with may know about an opening. You are looking to build your “black book” of nonprofit contacts. People you can reach out to when you are struggling with something on the job and people who begin to think about you when a job opening occurs. These connections will be partners throughout your professional career.
Make a list of your nonprofit connections
Make a list of all of your nonprofit connections with their organization, position, phone number, email and mailing address. Highlight contacts who will be most beneficial to your search.
When first sitting down it may seem like your list is going to be short, but think about everyone you interact with. These people can include classmates, past colleagues, someone you met through YNPN Denver, board members, or organizations at which you volunteer. Another challenge would be to add people who work at your “dream” organization. This may be a stretch, but remember, you are only looking to make a connection, not get a job offer.
Ask for an informational meeting
Once you have come up with your list of nonprofit professionals, begin setting up informational meetings with these individuals. Once again, you are looking for information which will help you professionally. If you know you are looking to move from programming to development, meet with a development director and ask questions about what working in development looks like and how you can break into the field.
Remember, people love to talk about their jobs and why they do it. You are interviewing them and you are telling them about you and what type of position you are looking for. At these informational meetings also ask them for some of the best resources they have used in their own profession.
If you meet them for coffee or lunch, offer to pay. Don’t forget, they are taking time out of their schedules to meet with you and offering to pay shows you value the conversation.
Ask for two additional connections
At each informational meeting ask your contact for two additional contacts that may be beneficial for your job search. You are trying to spread your networking net as far as you can, but depending on your professional experience your initial net might be small. By reaching out to their contacts you are meeting with new connections that may have other leads. Instead of just you looking for a job you now have four people looking for opportunities.
From my initial list of 30 connections I ended up with a list of over 60 people. I am now connected to people whose paths I would never have crossed if I hadn’t asked for additional contacts.
Write a handwritten thank you note
This by far is the most important step to the networking blitz. You need to send a handwritten thank you note for your informational meeting. Why handwritten? You want to show that the conversation was valuable and deserves the time it takes to write a handwritten message. In the note write about the meeting, thank them for the connections (reminding them to send you their information if they haven’t given it to you) and write about something specifically that was talked about at the meeting. For example, if they said they are in the middle of a large fundraising event wish them luck.
Write the thank you note in the car right after the meeting and stick it in the mailbox the same day. By doing this you are making sure you cover everything you talked about but also show how important the conversation was for you.
At the end of the networking blitz follow up with all your contacts. Thank them again for their time, update them on any new developments and keep in touch with them sporadically throughout the year. Once again, these are not just contacts for the five weeks but contacts for the rest of your career. Just as fundraising professionals need to steward relationships, you need to steward relationships with your contacts.
Drop them a note around Thanksgiving thanking them for their help in your professional career. Email them about a job opening they might be interested in. When you change jobs, let them know.
At the end of the day, remember it is a two-way street. Right now you might need their help in finding a job but you want to be there for them when they need you.
Have you ever participated in your own networking blitz? What were some takeaways which may be beneficial for others? Please leave your thoughts in the 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
I remember being an undergrad and asking Dan Doughterty, one of the directors of our campus social justice center, why he always took the bus. I knew where he lived, I knew he had a car, and I knew that it took him an extra 45 minutes to get to campus every day each way because he chose to ride the bus instead of taking his car. I think I expected something about environmental impact or gas prices in response. Instead he said, “Well, when you do the sort of work we’re trying to do here, I just think it’s important to start every morning standing in community.”
Over the years, the people whose practice I’ve most admired have always been people who’ve lived into this philosophy in some form or another. Whether it was my boss at the Building Movement Project, Frances, who would literally get itchy if she spent more than three straight weeks researching and writing about social movements rather than being “on the ground;” or fierce Sister Gene from my high school who ran around Latin America every summer to various demonstrations where she thought the presence of an American might lower the chances of (but not necessarily guarantee against) a massacre.
Fortunately, I’ve never had a job that required me to stand so directly in the line of fire, but the importance of actually touching the people and communities that you’re working “for” has been deeply, thankfully ingrained in me over the years.
So in 2012 during my first year as Director of YNPN, I knew that I wanted to spend as much time as I could with our chapters and our chapter leaders - that I would learn the most in that space about what our network was truly contributing to building a more just and equitable world and the direction I needed to set in order to help our chapters do this even more effectively.
While I didn’t have a chance to visit with every one of our 34 chapters (though at some point I do remember believing that this was actually possible. Yeah, not sure what I was thinking there...) I did have a chance to visit with 12 of our chapters over the course of the year - Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Twin Cities, New York City, DC, Boston, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Southwest Michigan. On each of these trips, I was consistently reminded of everything that kept Dan and Frances and Sister Gene on the bus and on the ground and in solidarity.
On each of these trips, I was reminded of how vibrant, creative, values-driven, strategic, diverse, and vital to communities our chapters are. It was during these trips that the first projects of YNPN 3.0 took shape and the YNPN LaunchPad Fellowship became an obvious solution for expanding our capacity. I would get on the plane humbled and energized and return to my desk clearer, more full of possibilities, and driven to do what needed to be done to support the network.
We have much to be proud as a network from the past year - both in terms of National recognition and in terms of all the amazing programming provided by our chapters. Knowing, however, how much more network infrastructure we still have to build to become THE platform for developing and moving diverse talent throughout the nonprofit sector, I thought it was critical to start the year by “getting back on the bus” - virtually for now. For the month of January, our new Field Coordinator/LaunchPad Fellow Ashley and I will be hosting calls and google hangouts with every single established chapter in the YNPN Network, starting with Atlanta and ending in Las Vegas.
We’ll be posting and tweeting along the way so be sure to like us on Facebook and follow the #ynpnvrt13 on twitter to learn fun facts about the chapters we’re “visiting.” The goal will be to expand on what we learned from spending time with 12 chapters in 2012 and use it to set a bold strategic vision in 2013.
Mostly, it will be an opportunity to start our year standing in community.