Earlier this week, we shared the results of our #ynpn10 fundraiser, celebrating our first decade as a network and preparing for the decade to come. Today, our leadership team was kind enough to share some of the process behind the campaign and lessons learned. Their answers shed light on how to: attract millennial donors, deal with unexpected changes in plan and motivate change through powerful messaging.
1. Do you feel like you learned anything new about millennial donors as a result of this campaign? If so, what?
While many of our donors were millennials, we were actually really proud of the age diversity among those who supported the campaign. In addition to the members and chapter leaders that supported the campaign (who fall solidly in the millennial age bracket), we also had YNPN alumni (more of the Gen X crowd) and the parents and family members of YNPN members who supported the campaign. It was really great to see people of all generations recognizing the value of supporting emerging leaders.
I did notice, however, that our younger supporters were more likely to share that they supported our campaign and encourage others to support the campaign via social media. We suspected that might be the case, which is why it was really important to us that we chose a platform that made social sharing really easy and accessible. We ended up using Fundly, which was a dream to work with and which looked a lot like Kickstarter, something we thought would be familiar and accessible to a lot of donors, particularly millennials.
2. What aspects of the campaign do you think resonated with donors and elicited such a strong response? Was it the message, the communication method, or something else?
I think it was a combination of things. First, I think people were intrigued by our ambitious goal. “Really? You’re going to try to raise $10,000 in 10 days? Ok, I have to see this.”
We found that people were really energized by match days. This is one of the main reasons that our campaign was such a success. People are really motivated by that beat-the-clock element and I think also really enjoyed feeling like their money was having twice the impact.
I also think having a genuine milestone--a 10 year anniversary--gave people a strong reason to pay attention. We wanted to make sure that people were aware of what we’d accomplished in the last ten years and how we planned to continue to build on that success. We also have very specific things that we’re working on over the next year, like launching a national database, that gave people some concrete ways in which we’re investing in our network that they can join us in.
3. What is something that didn't work as planned with this campaign, and what lessons did you take from that?
Well, it’s funny that you ask. We actually thought for several weeks that a big celebrity (I mean, a household name) was going to be able to record a video for our campaign through a personal connection we had. But it was getting down to the wire in terms of planning out the content for all 10 days and whether or not we had this celebrity’s video was going to affect the order of the entire content slate.
So we ended up planning two content slates: one with (celebrity) and one without.
The celebrity connection fell through, but our content and the campaign went so smoothly because of that advance planning. It was a great lesson in the importance of doing all of the work upfront and preparing for a variety of scenarios.
4. In planning the campaign, did you draw inspiration or ideas from previous campaigns or other organizations?
Yes! We were in the midst of planning the campaign when Trish went to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) conference in Baltimore. Before that conference we had been planning a pretty traditional campaign--a couple of emails spread out over 4-6 weeks with folks making individual appeals at the same time.
While at the conference, Trish heard a presentation from the Progressive Technology Project of Austin, Texas on a couple of sprint campaigns they had recently consulted on. Trish emailed us from the conference saying, “Ok, I know this isn’t what we were planning, but hear me out…” When the rest of us on the planning committee heard the idea of doing a shorter, sprint campaign that would tie the 10 year anniversary to raising $10,000 in 10 days, we thought it was a great idea. We knew it would mean a lot more work upfront, but we loved the thought of how a sprint campaign could energize people.
5. Did YNPN's national reach and relatively young status (operating less than 15 years) negatively or positively impact the campaign elements? What lessons can be learned from organizations with similar operating characteristics?
I think our national reach only helped us. We’re really fortunate (for many reasons) to have a fantastic network of chapters and chapter leaders who believe in the value of what YNPN does because they experience it every day. Nearly 20% of our donations were from chapter leaders and we had at least one person donate from 22 of our 40 chapters. Several of our chapters donated to the campaign as an organization.
Even though we’re relatively young, we’ve served tens of thousands of young nonprofit professionals and many of those alumni still continue to support YNPN even as they’ve “outgrown” the network. More than 50% of our original $10,000 goal was raised from alumni of our National Board. I think similar network organizations and organizations that offer powerful experiences would agree that maintaining strong relationships with alumni can be a very effective fundraising strategy. I feel like “alumni engagement” is very hot right now and our experience on this campaign shows that there’s an obvious financial reason why it’s important.
But we also feel strongly that it’s important because the young nonprofit professionals of today are the executive directors, board chairs, and funders of tomorrow. One of our hopes is that as members move on from our network and the designation of “young nonprofit professional,” they don’t lose sight of the importance of developing the emerging leaders they work with. A campaign like this can be a reminder as to the benefits they gained from the network and the great experience they had as a YNPN member and leader.
Thank you to all who so kindly donated, and helped us surpass our goal. You are the reason we can create a powerful and diverse social sector, and we can't wait to see where the next 10 years take us.
You may remember how thrilled we were a few months ago when Nonprofit Quarterly approached us about kicking off a collaboration.
This week our Communications Manager Jamie Smith is over on the Nonprofit Quarterly site providing an overview of the results of the survey we developed to give you a chance to tell one of the sector's leading publications what you think. The results were very interesting:
One of the NPQ survey respondents, for example, expressed a fear that we hear time and again from established leaders about what will happen to the sector over the next five years: “I am concerned with the draining of executive talent by retirements and burnout with fewer than the number needed stepping up to replace them.”
As part of a network of more than 50,000 young nonprofit professionals who are eager to lead, our members voice that the issue is not that we don’t have leaders who are willing to step up. Rather, we are not providing them with the support they need to not only step into leadership positions, but to also be effective once they’re there.
Jaimie Sorenson is a member of YNPN Portland who has also been a labor union member for over a decade. In our latest #nplabor piece, Jaimie shares her experience in today's labor movement.
I've been a member of a labor union for thirteen years. I didn’t come from a union family and knew nothing about unions before I joined one, except for what I had seen in a Jimmy Hoffa movie.
My education on unions was self-taught. It started when I left employment in the University Hospital I had worked in since high school and began working for a for-profit hospital. I was naïve to think that health insurance, sick leave and vacation time were standard across the industry.
I quickly learned I was wrong, so I returned to my former unionized employer. I decided to learn more about the union and get involved. Those pursuits lead me to pursue any opportunities my union offered, and they were ample.
I gained wonderful experiences at a very young age in presenting before hundreds of thousands of people, crafting workshops and creating new committees focused on issues my co-workers and I cared about. I found my voice in the union. Later I was elected to almost every officer position in the union and that eventually landed me in my current career as a union representative.
I’m often asked what it means to be a union rep. I usually explain by saying I’m in labor relations. I work with employers on a variety of issues: sometimes I’m in an advocacy role for the workers, bargaining contracts, and mediating workplace issues; at other times I’m helping to draft policies through negotiations, identifying cost savings and efficiencies for the employer and hopefully empowering workers as I’ve been empowered. I currently work with both public and nonprofit sector employees through Oregon AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).
Jaimie Sorenson with Sen. Jeff Merkley
Public and nonprofit sector employees both tend to be mission-focused, sometimes at their own expense. All too often in the nonprofit sector we tend to put the mission before the workers. I’m not advocating that anyone be less passionate about what they do. However, I do feel that workers need to be taken care of as well, and this is where a union can come into play.
I’ll give an example: One of the first contracts I ever negotiated was for group home workers who cared for developmentally disabled adults. The workers were very focused on fulfilling their mission and so was their employer, often to the extent that they ignored some of the basic needs the workers had. This resulted in big retention problems because the workers would burn out and move onto other employers.
This was very hard on the clients who didn’t understand why their friends, caregivers, and counselors were leaving them. In order to stop the floodgates, we need to address the problems that were causing the burn out.
As with many nonprofits, the main issue was funding. I worked with our lobbying team and headed to the state capitol to advocate for more funding for these types of organizations. I’m proud to report that we received an 8% increase in funding for all subsidized group homes in my state. This resulted in increased wages and the ability to hire more staff. Because of our union, these workers who serve one of the most vulnerable populations in our state no longer make the same wages as fast food workers.
Unions can be instrumental in ensuring that an employer has a sustainable operation. We share that interest with employers, thought that’s not the common public perception. We actually want to help ensure that the employer remains in business and is the best business it can be.
Unions can also help solve workplace issues, secure funding, work to defeat bad legislation and create helpful legislation as well. We advocate for workers, and in the long run when a worker is happy, the work is better. It’s a win-win for workers and business. As a union representative, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many employers who agree with this philosophy. I hope to see more organizations adopting this philosophy in the future.
Jaimie Sorenson is a staff representative for Oregon AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).
Alison Green is the manager behind the Ask A Manager blog, where she answers reader questions and shares her expertise and insight into labor and management issues. We love Alison's respectful and no nonsense approach to workplace relationships and management, so we asked her to share her advice for young nonprofit professionals.
You've worked in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Are there any key differences that you've noticed or any management and HR best practices that should be tweaked for the nonprofit setting?
You know, I think there's sometimes lack of clarity in the sector about what good management means in the first place. It's not about having an effective board or a happy and empowered staff -- those things are important as means, but the fundamental aim of good management is to produce results that you can sustain over time. Everything else stems from there. Too often, though, nonprofits managers lose sight of the central question of what results are being produced. It's something you see less often in businesses, because there's a clear bottom line (which is profit). In nonprofits, that bottom line is social impact, but it can be easier to lose sight of that when you're not vigilant about keeping your focus there.
You've said in the past "The work many nonprofits do is crucial, and what’s at stake is so much more important than some business’s bottom line. Because of that, nonprofits have a special obligation to be as effective as possible in pursuing their missions, which means that they need to be really committed to effective management [...]." What can YNPs do if they feel they're not being managed effectively?
Honestly, it's very hard to change bad management from below. You can certainly think about what pieces of the situation are within your control and focus on making those pieces go as smoothly as possible. But what you don't want to do -- and what happens too often -- is to end up stewing in frustration over things about boss or your organization that you can't change. You need to either find ways to work effectively within that context or -- if you realize that you can't work reasonably happy in that environment -- realize that you might need to move on to somewhere where you'll be less frustrated.
The nonprofit sector is unfortunately infamous for low salaries and tight budgets. How would you advise a young nonprofit professional who wants to negotiate for a higher salary handle it if their manager responds, "We don't have the money"? Does the conversation have to end there?
Try asking what you'd need to do in order to earn the raise. If the answer is still some variation of "we don't have the money, no matter what you do," at that point you'll need to decide what to do with that information. Can you continue to work there happily for now, knowing that your salary isn't likely to go up any time soon? Some people decide that they can, because they're sufficiently fulfilled by the work and like what they're doing. Or you might decide that regardless of how you feel about your work and your mission, you'd like to earn more money. Either is a legitimate decision, and you'll be helped in your thinking by understanding what is and isn't possible in your role at your current organization.
It's also useful to understand what your market value is. It's worth doing some research to figure out what salary you'd command somewhere else, and what the trade-offs of that might be. For instance, you might find that you could earn more money somewhere else, but wouldn't enjoy the work as much, or wouldn't have something else you that like about your current job (like great benefits or working on a high-profile issue). Or you might realize that you WOULD prefer the total package you could get somewhere else. Overall, though, more information is better than less.
One of our board members was curious to hear your advice for middle managers in nonprofit organizations around supporting and keeping YNPs who may be in organizations where there is little opportunity for actual advancement. How can managers best support their employees?
Sometimes the way you support staff might be by accepting that they won't stay forever. Not every role has a career path within the organization, especially at smaller organizations, and that's okay. The best thing you can do is to be realistic about that, with yourself and with those staff members, and think about how you can help them prepare for their next role somewhere else. For instance, are there ways they can improve their skills in their current roles? Development opportunities to expand their skills in ways that will be useful in their current work? Ways to give them increased responsibility or a greater role in your department without moving them?
A talented YNP is going to stick around longer with a manager who's helping her gain skills for her next role, even if that role is at a different organization, than with one who won't let her develop at all.
One of our members is wondering how recent graduates can make a phenomenal first impression? Many 'entry level' jobs require 2-3 years of experience but many graduates are entering into the job market with patched together experiences or jobs that they needed to take to pay their way through school. What can they do to break into the field?
First and foremost, get as much work experience as you can before you graduate. Employers are looking for experience, not just knowledge, and so new grads who come out of school with work experience on their resumes have a significant advantage, even if it's patched together from internships and part-time jobs. Next, get a practical understanding of what your degree qualifies you for in the work world. Too often, people pick a major without fully understanding what jobs it will and won't qualify them for once they graduate, and then they end up frustrated to learn that the major doesn't open the doors they thought it would, or that the career paths it opens up aren't ones they're interested in. And third, figure out how to help employers understand how your experience relates to their needs. New grads often come out of school without much understanding of how to frame their qualifications in terms that will resonate with employers. The language and framework that worked in academia may not work with employers, so it's really important for them to figure out how to translate that.
You recently answered a question from a reader about being asked to work incredibly long hours at evening and weekend events. There was a similar question a few months ago about employees being asked to donate to their organizations. Some of the demands made in the name of "the cause" can get pretty unreasonable. Do you have any recommendations or scripts for employees who need to set boundaries with their organization around their personal time and money?
Be clear about what you can do -- and what you can't. For instance, if you're asked to donate money to your own organization (something that I find ridiculous, for whatever that's worth), you can say something like, "I'm glad to put in hard work because I care about our mission, but I'm not comfortable donating to my employer" or "Unfortunately my budget won't allow it" or whatever other polite version of "no" you're most comfortable with. Similarly with unrealistic hours, it's fine to say, "I understand that from time to time I'll need to work nights or weekends and I'm glad to do that on occasion when the work requires it, but I also have other commitments that don't allow me to do it this often. Can we talk about other ways to get the work done?" (Obviously, this wouldn't be appropriate in a context where the nature of the job truly does require odd hours.)
Realize, too, that there might be times in your life when you WANT to throw yourself into work and focus a ton of your energy on your job. You might have times when your professional goals are more important to you than your personal goals. At other times, other things in your life might take priority. The key is to have clarity on that yourself and choose roles that align well with your personal and professional goals at any given time.
Last month we spoke with Paul Schmitz about his book "Everyone Leads." During our chat, he encouraged YNPs to step up and take leadership opportunities when they see them. Do you have any specific tips for young nonprofit professionals who might be interested in taking on a bigger leadership role in their organizations? How can they do it in a way that's effective and doesn't play into some of the millennial stereotypes that are out there (e.g. that we're overly ambitious and don't want to pay our dues)?
Well, first you want to make sure that you're doing a great job of your core responsibilities. You want to be able to prove that you can handle what's already been throw at you. But from there, volunteer to lead team projects, to take the lead on investigating potential new initiatives, offer to manage your team's interns, etc. If you're stepping up to take on new responsibilities in a way that will be a help to your employer, it's more likely to be well-received than if you seem to just be looking to advance without thinking through the organization's needs.
What's the worst piece of career advice or conventional wisdom that you see being repeated?
The idea that there's such a thing as a dream job. The reality is, you have no idea whether a particular would be your dream job or not until you’re actually in it and have been for a while. In fact, there's really no such thing as a dream job that you can truly recognize from the outside. As much as you think you might love doing that work for that particular organization, it might turn out that the manager is a nightmare, or the organization makes you bring in a doctor’s note every time you have a cold, or your workload is so unachievably high that you end up having panic attacks every morning.
Dream jobs do exist — when it’s work you love, at an organization that treats employees well, working for a great manager, alongside coworkers who are competent and kind — but it’s dangerous to think something is your dream job before you’re really in a position to know. It can lead you to turn a blind eye to warning signs or to make decisions you wouldn’t make if you had all the facts, and you can end up miserable as a result. It can also cause you to pass up opportunities that might become your dream job if you gave it a chance.
What are your top three tips for young professionals looking to advance their career in the nonprofit sector?
- Be really, really clear on how the work you're doing -- any given project and your role overall -- ties to your organization's fundamental mission. How is it driving your organization forward? What are the results it's getting that will advance that mission? If you can't answer those questions, there's a problem.
- Find mentors. These don't have to be formal relationships with an official "mentor" label; they can simply be more experienced coworkers who you have some rapport with. Regularly talking with someone more experienced can give you a broader perspective on office life, help you navigate tricky situations, and succeed faster.
- Do what you say you're going to do and by when you say you're going to do it. Always sticking to your word will establish you as someone reliable and trustworthy, someone who is on top of their game, and it's such rare behavior that you'll stand out for it.
If you want to read more from Alison, check out her blog Ask A Manager and the book she co-wrote, Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results.
I’m sitting in a breakout session on leadership at a nonprofit conference. The speaker asks, “Can someone tell me about their experience as a leader?”
Immediately, my hands get clammy, beads of sweat bubble around my hairline, and I am genuinely considering whether anyone will notice if I crawl under the table. As I glance at the raised hand of my neighbor, I am certain she is getting ready to share her experience founding a nonprofit that single-handedly raised adult literacy rates, ended childhood obesity, fed the hungry, and sheltered the homeless all at the advanced age of nine. I have only two thoughts: I am not a leader, and I hate this question.
This describes my experience at nearly every leadership workshop until last week when the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits brought in Paul Schmitz to lead a workshop based on his book, Everyone Leads. Paul suggested a definition of leadership that I had never considered before. In fact, his definition defies the very laws of grammar. According to Paul, the word “leader” is a verb, not a noun. Leadership is an action someone takes, not a position someone holds.
When asked to consider my personal experiences as a leader in the past, my internal response has been, “I’m only 25. I’m not a CEO. I definitely don’t have a list of awards on my resume. Maybe I’ll be a leader in 15 or 20 years after I’ve accomplished more.” But if a leader is defined by his or her individual strengths, talents, and values rather than titles or lists of accomplishments, how does that change the way I view my leadership abilities?
Paul Schmitz in Oklahoma City. Photo from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.
First, Paul’s definition of leadership helped me identify the ways I have stepped up as a leader in my organization. My Director has a visionary leadership style. She is innovative and likes taking risks. I fall somewhere between the analyst and mobilizer leadership styles. I am excellent at developing program timelines, summarizing complex group discussions, communicating persuasively, and creating accountability for my department.
I may not be the Director, but I also recognize that “Director” and “Leader” are not synonyms. I may not be generating innovative program ideas, but I also recognize that visionary leadership is not the only kind. If it were, our programs would rarely develop beyond the initial spark and enthusiasm. Every action I take is an opportunity to step up as a leader, apply my unique skills and strengths, and contribute to the progress and success of my organization’s programs.
Second, if leadership is defined by individual strengths, talents, and values, then it is a fluid definition. I expect my strengths, talents, and values to grow as I do. If I have a hard time defining who I am as a leader at 25, that’s perfectly okay. I’m still developing that definition. Paul encouraged this when he discussed the leadership value of continuous learning.
During the workshop, he asked everyone to write down three things they suck at. Here are mine: being on time, taking big risks, and letting go of control. There is power in identifying our challenges, mistakes, and shortfalls; it keeps us from growing stagnant. Part of my position with the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits involves training nonprofit boards on good governance practices. The first time I trained, I was paralyzed with fear that someone would ask a question, and I wouldn’t have the answer. Everyone would realize I’m a fraud. Now, I see that the best answer is often, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” Every time I don’t have an answer, it forces me to grow and improve.
Finally, Paul’s definition says that leaders are defined by a certain set of values. Leaders hold themselves accountable to these values and expect others to hold them accountable as well. Paul outlines five values that his organization, Public Allies, identifies as necessary for positive and lasting community change. But at the end of his workshop, he invited us to name our own values. I thought back to a prompt Paul used at the beginning of the day: think about a time when someone believed in you, opened a door, or created opportunity for you.
This past January, I was invited to help facilitate a retreat for ten Executive Directors in a rural community in Oklahoma. A few days before the retreat, the primary facilitator asked if I would lead a thirty minute educational component on a topic of my choice. I was shocked she thought I had anything of value to share with a group of far more experience leaders and that she trusted me to develop the topic on my own. She valued my voice. She forced me outside my comfort zone. She was confident in my abilities even when I still needed some convincing. This is how I want to lead others.
What kind of leader do I want to be? A leader that understands that the most effective organizations utilize the leadership of many. A leader that seeks constant growth and improvement. And a leader that recognizes and develops leadership potential in others.
Kristin Holland is the Program Manager for the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. In her role, Holland is responsible for managing the Center’s educational programs including training, customized consulting, and the nationally-accredited Standards for Excellence series. Since joining the Center in 2012, Holland has received over 250 hours of nonprofit management training, and she received her Certificate of Nonprofit Board Education from BoardSource in February 2014. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Holland earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History.
Holland volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter, the United Way of Central Oklahoma, and she is a founding board member for Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Oklahoma City. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog and cat. A native of Oklahoma City, she is extremely enthusiastic about her hometown. Follow her on Twitter: @krismholland
Last fall at the Independent Sector Conference, I was given the privilege of delivering a workshop on next generation leaders. For folks who don’t’ know, Independent Sector is a leadership network of 600 or so of the largest and most prominent nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs in the country, and every year their annual conference brings together thousands of top leaders from these organizations. Essentially, Independent Sector is THE nonprofit establishment – so naturally they are interested in the future of the sector. Which is how I found myself in the pretty cool position to talk about next generation leaders.
As I prepared for this opportunity, though, I started to get a little stuck. As I tend to do when I’m given any task that seems a little too straightforward, I started to pick it apart.
I mean, what does it mean to be “next generation” anyway?
In the simplest of terms, it means that you’re the generation that came after the last one. And, sure, that’s who YNPN represents - Millennials and Gen Xers – the folks were born after the boomers who established the nonprofit sector as many of us know it.
But for some reason, using this cool space to talk about how great our constituents are seemed kind of...I don’t know. Small. And short-sighted. Because when you think about it, as a society in general and as a sector specifically, we’re in the midst of a shift that‘s “next generation” in a different way.
When you think of it in terms of your phone or of your operating system, next generation means something more than “younger” or “new,” right? And that phone or that OS isn’t inherently better because it’s younger or new. It’s not inherently better at all, actually. It’s only better if...
...it builds on what worked well and what people loved about the original.
...it directly fixes past mistakes - broken things and bugs.
...it incorporates new technology and solutions available to us now that weren’t available before.
...it looks fresh! The look and feel of it is updated to fit the current context.
When I started thinking about the concept of next generation this way, the potential of the conversation felt bigger, and frankly way more interesting. Mostly because I knew for a fact that even though Millennials and Gen Xers have a lot to contribute as natives to this more flexible, nimble way of approaching change work, every person and every organization in the sector, regardless of age or how established they are is called to be a part of this sector upgrade - this next generation of leadership. And I got to be the one to call it out in front of this giant audience.
This was my Steve Jobs moment.
So I put on my black mock turtleneck (sike. I rocked an orange batik dress), got up in front of the room, and laid out a few things:
First, I shared some lessons gathered from working with and observing folks out in the field who actually seem to be having an impact on some of the increasingly complex issues facing our communities.
Lesson 1: Focus on goals over form. If your plan or your organizational structure isn’t going to have an impact, be willing to change it.
Lesson 2: Relationships are everything. Cultivate them. Rely on them.
Lesson 3: Ignore intersectionality at your peril. The beautiful people in our communities are made up of lots of identities. The work we do with them will not succeed unless it recognizes and embraces all of those identities.
Lesson 4: Value community-centered solutions over silver bullets. Replication isn’t everything. Sometimes what works in Jackson, MS can only work in Jackson, MS. And that’s okay.
Lesson 5: Listen to data that speaks to both the head and the heart.
Then I turned the floor over to folks from three organizations that I think are already living and breathing this sector upgrade:
Ai-Jen Poo and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, whose intergenerational, intersectional, and humanistic Caring Across Generations campaign is audaciously and simultaneously taking on issues of immigration reform, quality care for an aging America, and a living wage for younger Americans.
Decker Ngongang from Echoing Green’s Black Male Achievement Fellowship Program, which is the first fellowship program in the world for folks who are starting up new and innovative organizations that address the barriers facing black men and boys in the United States.
Frances Kunreuther & Sean Thomas-Breitfeld of the Building Movement Project, who decided to go beyond simply researching and promoting alternative organizational structures for social justice organizations, but took on a radical co-leadership model within their own organization in order to increase their impact.
Finally, I talked about what YNPN does to try and cultivate rather than stifle this type of next generation leadership. You can read more about that here. (Note that there’s no mention of a need for more credentialing and certification programs... :)
The energy of the comments and conversations that followed once the session ended signaled that the message resonated and that despite what people may say about the sector establishment, folks are definitely ready for an upgrade.
And I think it’s subtly for a lot of the same reasons people would get excited for a new operating system or their new phone. It’s not just because they need the next thing that’s shiny. They’re excited to see what the collection of human knowledge and shared work has brought us to next - how we’ve taken the best ideas and brought them together to make something that might change the way that each of us lives our lives for the better. The sector is definitely ready.
In my last position in the nonprofit workforce, I remember frequently talking to colleagues about our financial struggles. Despite working in a small human services nonprofit with few resources, we loved our jobs. Unlike many places I had worked in the nonprofit sector, within this particular organization the majority of staff members were under 30. In that same organization, turnover was high, with many of the staff leaving after a year.
Yet, most of the employees were not leaving to go to other nonprofit jobs. They simply decided that the financial costs of committing to the nonprofit workforce were not worth it. Many went to work in for-profit companies, and although some had social missions most did not. These personal experiences served as the impetus that led me back to school to obtain my Ph.D.
With those ideas in mind, I recently conducted a study examining Generation Y employees in the nonprofit workforce using the members survey many of you completed for YNPN in 2011. I combined this study with insights learned from an earlier study and investigated the relationship between compensation and the sector switching propensity of young people, comparing them to their Generation X (born between 1961 and 1981) counterparts.
I focused on sector switching as there are costs to both the vitality of the nonprofit workforce and the ability of nonprofit organizations to continue providing some of our nation’s most critical public services. I was interested in contributing to a more nuanced understanding of how the nonprofit sector could retain young people as studies on this topic to merely describe what proportion of the population wants to leave their job. There are few studies that predict what factors contribute to turnover and sector switching.
I began researching the literature and hypothesized that compensation would affect young nonprofit employees differently than other generations for several reasons. First, the nonprofit workforce has historically been composed of part-time employees. However, the sector now demands a professional workforce and many Universities have responded as demonstrated by an increase in the number of nonprofit education programs. Generation Y employees are also growing up at a time when there is a great deal of sector blurring. Employees no longer feel that they can only “make a difference” in the nonprofit sector. In the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University, where I teach, about a third of our graduates enter the for-profit, nonprofit, and public sectors. Finally, the notion of what a career is, has changed. Employees of all generations recognize the limitations of commitment to one employer for the entirety of their lives. Instead, a career is thought to be made up of several job changes (sometimes even lateral moves) in order for employees to gain the skills and knowledge they desire.
In this study there are six key findings:
- A high proportion of Generation X and Generation Y nonprofit managers plan to sector switch
- Salary does not affect the propensity of Generation X employees or managers to sector switch
- Salary does not affect the propensity of Generation Y employees to sector switch
- Salary does affect the likelihood that Generation X managers sector switch
- Perceptions of compensation equity (comparisons to peers) does not affect the propensity of Generation Y employees or managers to sector switch
- Generation X managers are unlikely to sector switch if they perceive their compensation is equitable to peers in other sectors
Another surprising (or maybe not so surprising) finding is that for Generation Y managers, but not Generation X managers, holding an advanced degree increases the likelihood that they will switch sectors. So what does all of this mean? For me, I have a few more insights about how to move forward in future research. First, money matters for Millennials, and there are hundreds of explanations as to why it would matter for their generation’s commitment to the nonprofit sector but not previous generations; yet, existing data does not allow me to test those ideas. Second, and most importantly, nonprofit managers can use this research to have honest conversations about turnover, sector switching, and what can be done to retain employees. More broadly, your membership in YNPN plays a vital role in continuing to advance these discussions and the time you take to complete the member survey matters!
NOTE: As all academics will attest, particularly those of us in more applied fields, we are terrified of our academic writing never impacting practice, and more honestly no one reading the work we spend our lives doing. Although I am looking forward to 1) people reading this blog and 2) the comments it ensues, I also want to make it clear that beyond what I explain above the data does not allow me to say more, beyond speculation.
Jasmine is the Assistant Professor at The George Washington University, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. She can be found on twitter: @Prof_McGinnis
 McGinnis, Jasmine. (2011). “The Young and Restless: Generation Y in the Nonprofit Workforce.” Public Administration Quarterly, 35 (3), 342-362 http://www.spaef.com/article/1288/The-Young-and-Restless:-Generation-Y-in-the-Nonprofit-Workforce
YNPN National is currently working on broader strategies to address the issues of coaching access and affordability. As part of that strategy, the following post is part of an ongoing series aimed at raising awareness about the importance of coaching and tools for accessing this critical support - both amongst our members and the sector at large.
Unleashing Your Best Self: An Interview with Cathy Wasserman, Professional Coach
By Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward
Last year, I sought out a colleague for a heart-to-heart: Alongside my demanding nonprofit job, I yearned to move my career forward. My coworker seemed to have endless energy and inspiration for his own professional development. He urged me to hire a coach, and referred me to Cathy Wasserman, owner of Self-Leadership Strategies, which provides depth, career, and executive coaching.
I became a client of Cathy’s – and a passionate believer in the transformative power of coaching. I recently spoke with Cathy about her work:
Why work with a coach? What’s in it for social change leaders?
CW: Coaching enables people to dig deep around their unique strengths, growing edges, and values. Ultimately, when people maximize what they can share of themselves, social change efforts maximize as well. Social change requires as many people as possible to articulate their ideas, problem solve, and bring their best self to their work.
Coaching lends itself well to the challenges and complexities of addressing social problems. It helps people navigate contradictions within organizations: the gaps between mission and what is actually happening.
Coaching can exponentialize someone’s work for social change – both within larger society, and within themselves as a healthy, effective change agent. Coaching allows people to learn from all that is happening, and sustain themselves for the long haul.
What mental barriers do you see in people struggling to reach career goals?
CW: There’s a real challenge in allowing ourselves to be fulfilled, to go for what we want, to stop doing what isn’t working. Human beings have trouble embracing our greatness and possibility; we tend to undervalue our skill, value, and intrinsic worth. We over-identify with our inner critic, and work within environments that feed that back to us.
Ironically, those barriers are often catalysts for growth – levers for unleashing more of ourselves – but in the moment, they can be confusing and frustrating. Coaches help people to realize their mental barriers as opportunities for growth and discovery.
Are there particular challenges nonprofit leaders face?
CW: Intrinsically, there’s a sense of “fighting the good fight”, of coming from behind. Nonprofit leaders, more than the average person, have a sense of scarcity, of more limitations they’re working against. There are also logistical realities of working for nonprofits: For example, because there is less money than in the corporate sector, there is also less leadership development training available.
What’s one exercise someone can engage in to move forward in their career?
CW: Start by getting clear on your mission, values, and priorities – personally or professionally. I consider that the foundation of the house of leadership. We need that to help direct our energy and stay on track. It’s difficult to move forward strategically and sustainably without that “north star”.
How did you get into coaching?
CW: I’ve coached informally throughout my career, for example as a community organizer in the feminist and youth movements. There wasn’t much language of coaching at the time – it was just something I did. Eventually, I studied social work and was trained as a therapist, a discipline closely related to coaching.
I decided to work at both micro and macro levels: Besides coaching individuals, I worked as a management consultant for the Support Center for Nonprofit Management. Through one of my trainings I met folks from Idealist, and was invited to write a career coaching column, “Ask Cathy”. There was a tremendous response from readers seeking coaching, so I developed a coaching business. As with many coaches, my road was long and winding – but really, I’ve been coaching all along.
Would you recommend coaching as a career path for others?
CW: Coaching requires an ability to really witness and be present to someone. It demands skill and mastery of one’s relationship to the self. As that muscle is built, you can be more and more available to others, and support them in a powerful way, helping them unlock themselves and explore what’s going on within them.
Coaching isn’t for faint of heart. You need to be able to go into crevices of someone else’s humanity. People will resist and limit their own growth and get frustrated by it, which can make the coaching process difficult. A coach has to be energized by that challenge.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a coach?
CW: It’s a real privilege to witness someone’s growth process, as they tackle the truth of who they are, who they’ve been, and who they’re becoming. Sometimes it’s about bravely looking at your own “shadow” side, and dealing with it. The role of coach and client is to take risks and move forward, even with the fear and anxiety and doubt that come up. That people allow this process to happen is a source of great gratitude and joy for me.
The Stress of the “5-Year Plan"
By Alicia Jay, cross-posted from www.rabbleup.com.
I recently asked a room-full of emerging social change leaders to close their eyes and picture their professional selves in 5 years. Everyone closed their eyes, and sat with the visualization. After the exercise, I asked for reactions. A few folks shared their visions– brilliant and inspiring.
Then, one brave woman stood up and said, “That exercise really stressed me out!” I LOVED her honesty, and it really got me thinking.
Projecting into the future has always been one of my go-to tools whenever I’m feeling stuck, bored, or just planning for my next steps. I love imagining myself 5 or 10 years from now. My Type-A side is nicely balanced with my inner day-dreamer, and visualization remains one of my strongest manifestation tricks.
But, for some, or maybe even for many emerging leaders, conjuring up that vision is terrifying or impossible:
How am I supposed to know where I want to be in 5 years, I’m not sure where I want to be next month?
I like what I’m doing now, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue this work for 5 years?
I don’t see how I can support myself financially doing non-profit work for the long-haul? These are all valid feelings.
If these types of questions are resonating with you, I encourage you to throw away the idea that you need a “5-Year Plan” and just simply start with one basic question for your work NOW:
How do you want to feel at work every day?
Get specific with your answer. Here are some examples from recent conversations I’ve had (paraphrased) to get the juices flowing:
- I want more responsibility at work—I want to feel like my boss and co-workers trust me, and are willing to give me big projects to work on without micromanaging. I want to feel acknowledged for the good work that I have done. I’m a team player, but I also want ownership.
- I like my job, but I want to feel more stable. I know my organization is having financial trouble, and I’m worried that if they have to cut jobs, mine will be the first to go. I don’t know much about how the fundraising works, but I’d be happy to help in any way that I can. I wish I could be included more in decision-making conversations, or at least feel more clued-in to what’s happening.
- I think I’m in a rut. Between working a day job and volunteering on the weekends, I think I’m getting burnt out. I want to feel excited to go to work, not exhausted and dreading every Monday morning. I want to feel supported, inspired, and like I’m making real social change every day.
Again, the more specific of a picture you can paint, the easier it will be to take action steps.
The person from the first example decided it was time to have a conversation with her boss about more responsibility and taking the steps to work her way up to a manager’s role. She also realized that in a few years, she might want to be a Program Director or other manager of some sort.
The next person decided to schedule an informational interview with someone that works in philanthropy. Instead of feeling disempowered by the fundraising aspect of his organization, he realized he might actually want to pursue either fundraising or even grant making in the future.
This last example is arguably the most common situation I hear. There is no one prescription for this situation, and in my experience, it’s the right time for many people to get more personalized and ongoing support.
If you’re finding yourself on the brink of, or already, in a cycle of burn out, come say hi over at www.rabbleup.com, and take the FREE questionnaire and get a personalized response directly from me.
There’s no need to force a “vision” if it’s just not coming to you. Leadership vision is only useful if it’s a source of inspiration and motivation, not stress.
Don’t want to plan out your life for the next decade?! No problem, just start with how you want to feel tomorrow.
Alicia Jay is the founder of Rabble Up, a coaching and training program for emerging social change leaders. Go to www.rabbleup.com for more information or to schedule a free coaching consultation.
“Who am I” as a question often feels clichéd, relegated to the leads of sleepy winter movies, to shopping mall philosophers, to those with too much time and too little to do. “Who am I?” I’m an AmeriCorps Member. I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m a musician. I’m a hard worker and a loyal friend. What more do you need to know? Life’s too busy for idle identity contemplation. Don’t talk about who you are, be who you are. Or as I tell clients at my site as we’re working on their resumes, “Show, don’t tell.”
And yet, onsite at Urban Ventures on a Friday morning, CEO Timothy Clark reminded us all that maybe there is some room for contemplation. In fact, maybe it’s very, very important. At this YNPN Breakfast of Champions event, Clark spent a large portion of the time taking us from college graduation to taking the wheel at Urban Ventures. He did this not to trace back his ascension to “leadership” in rote fashion, but because taking this tour opened up many valuable questions, questions that can contribute to our own growth if we think hard enough on our own answers. He posed questions like “What do you stand for?” and “Do people know what you are?” Clark had many answers to such questions. Clark defines himself through authenticity. He calls himself a “quiet leader.” He is a “sheep dressed in a wolf’s clothing.” I find that last one amusingly colorful, but also illustrative in its specificity. Clark asserted that you can’t lead others unless you know yourself, and he leaves little doubt that he does.
All of Clark’s self-definitions distinguish his leadership as ever present in his career. Long before arbitrary organizational mantles declared him a leader, he led by taking responsibility of informing a colleague of her termination, knowing his boss would have handled it with a less than sensitive touch. He led by living his character, not his job title. In his own words, “Leadership isn’t titular, it’s organic.”
You don’t stop being a leader when you finish middle school and enter the daunting halls of high school as wide eyed freshman, and neither do you stop when you complete a service year or even lose a good job and take to delivering pizzas in the meantime. No person or circumstance outside yourself determines your leadership. You get to decide. But make sure it’s an informed decision.
I’m about to begin a second service year here in Minneapolis. Ostensibly this next year is to set myself up for post-service success, to network the heck out of this city, to absorb all the input I can, and more. It wasn’t until this breakfast that I realized maybe next year needs to be one of introspection as well.
So in the spirit of self-definition, let me exercise a little defining of my own, and I invite you to do the same. I am the son of a lawyer and a deacon. I have my father’s sensibilities and my mother’s empathy, and both of these drive me. I don’t yet have a central word as Clark has found in authenticity, but I can find moments of leadership, of character and not titles: when I explained to a fellow club member issues people took with him, respectfully and clearly, no anonymous notes involved. When I've stayed late at a volunteer shift because an event is shorthanded. When I said yes to helping clients with questions I could ignore based on my job description. When it’s not convenient to work for a cause, but I signed up anyway because I can’t just stand on the sidelines and pass the responsibility on to others.
So that’s me. That’s how I lead. How do you?
Interested in YNPN's popular Breakfast of Champion series? Sign up for the waitlist for the next event with Laura Zabel of Springboard for the Arts, and keep an eye out for future breakfast events with local nonprofit leaders.