Like many YNPN members, my early life experiences informed my professional life today. Active in my church in childhood and adolescence, I developed a deep commitment to social and environmental justice, and joined multigenerational teams volunteering for a variety of causes. In college, I was lucky to study abroad through Semester at Sea, which (as I then described) “smacked me in the face with my own privilege”, exposed me to extreme wealth disparity and racism around the globe, and caused me to question most of what I knew: my middle-class lifestyle, my major life choices, and my role in a world that was both so beautiful and so broken. As I began to look for full-time work following college, I was certain – fervently, urgently so – that I wanted to devote my life to social change, and my professional life to the nonprofit sector.
Already then, I knew my tendencies - to overextend myself, to neglect my own health, and to fuel my work out of guilt, urgency, and a sense of martyrdom – which left me drained and burned out, often. In my first full-time job, as a national community organizer, I epitomized workaholism and experienced physical and emotional pain because of it. I began to despair that I would not be able to live out my calling to work for social change, without sacrificing my health and relationships in the process.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to enroll in a graduate school launching a first-of-its-kind experiment: a Masters program in Social Change at a theological school (seminary). The program sought to provide not only professional and academic training, but also spiritual and emotional grounding, to social change leaders. I was encouraged to make sense of my own experience, and place it in a larger context of social movement history. I explored common struggles social change leaders experience in their professional and personal lives, and how these may differ across class, race, gender, and other identities. I devoted my final project to “Personal Sustainability and Mental Health in Social Movements”, using my own story as a central narrative. It was another privileged experience, to immerse myself in the study and implementation of “self care”. That program would have been difficult or impossible to complete if I hadn’t been a middle class, school-loan beneficiary without dependents.
The “self care” theme has shaped my life and career ever since. In most leadership roles, from counseling youth to managing political campaigns, I experienced external factors (i.e. workplace environments) and internal factors (i.e. my own psychology) that predisposed me to burnout – reminding me again and again to sharpen my strategic work-planning, boundary-setting, and care-taking skills. I’ve found purpose in mentoring and training others on how to cultivate health, care, and sustainability within their own social change efforts. And, I’m constantly trying to understand how my social location – for example, as a white middle-class formally-educated woman – impacts my needs for, and practices of, “self care”.
This theme came up immediately when I began working with YNPN National, via the LaunchPad Fellowship program. As Talent Coordinator, I work with our Director, Trish, to evaluate the experience of YNPN leaders – for example our LaunchPad Fellows – and systemically cultivate a work environment in which we reflect openly on our challenges, support each other in taking care of ourselves, and plan and execute our work in strategic and sustainable ways. It’s an awesome challenge.
In our most recent LaunchPad staff meeting, I offered a professional development presentation centered on an essay called “An End to Self Care” by my friend and collaborator B Loewe, which builds on “Communites of Care” by Yashna Padamsee. Both were published in Organizing Upgrade, an online forum for community organizers to share and develop strategy. “An End to Self Care” came out last fall, and ignited a national conversation.
The article doesn’t so much seek to end self-care, as reframe it. Self care, as it’s usually understood, is an individual – rather than collective – task, often inaccessible and irrelevant to those who aren’t middle-class people with leisure time (i.e. no family dependents). Self care is often framed as another “to do” on an already unwieldy workload, leading to unrealistic, unattainable expectations that can make us feel bad about failing to adequately care for ourselves.
There are many insights in the article, so I’ll paraphrase just a few key points:
Building a society in which all are able to be healthy, cared-for and sustainable requires critical reflection on the possibilities and limitations of the nonprofit sector.
The experience of working for non-profits and social change efforts needs, in many ways, to be reconstructed or reframed to become a more energizing rather than draining experience.
To break out of the isolation often perpetuated by our dominant culture, we must move beyond care for the self and practice collective or community care.
Community care is a collectively liberatory practice which can not only sustain our own involvement in social causes, but enable many more – across class, race, family and other social locations – to join us.
The earlier article “Communities of Care” similarly called for collective/shared care, which unlike self care interrupts and transforms systems on a broader level. Yashna Padamsee, a leader in Healing Justice, or HJ, movements, urges us look at the root causes of why we need care and healing – for example, to explore how ableism is operating in our communities and organizations, and creating unrealistic or unattainable expectations for our work.
The need for care and healing is crucial: according to the Southern Healing Justice Collective, social changemakers are at a particular risk of “spiritual and physical deprivation from trauma, stress and unrest in our movements” and “dying as a result”. “Communities of Care” reminds that just as injustices are interconnected and affect us all, so are and must be our efforts for healing and care. Disability Justice movements are leading the way in showing us that we don’t have to keep doing our work in the same way nor do we need to do it alone.
Organizing Upgrade put together an excellent “Roundup and Re-Frame of the Community Care Conversation” highlighting the large and diverse range of responses when “An End to Self Care” was published last fall. Two of the excellent points:
Rather than self-care, we need self-determined care:
“The messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist.” By loving and caring for ourselves we are fighting the system; “to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other – is radical, it’s self-determination.” - Adrienne Maree Brown
Care is and must be at the core of changemaking:
“True care, whether it is self-centered, community-centered or family-centered is something we should assume is part of change work...Whether people like the analogy or not, we are soldiers fighting a war for human dignity. The key to winning the war is, in part, knowing when to be soldiers and when to be parents, children, siblings, spouses/partners or just human. To learn how to be all of those things effectively requires all of us prioritizing care.” - Subhash Kateel
How have you – personally and professionally – experienced care, health, and sustainability (or lack thereof) as an individual? What about as part of a group or organization? What social factors, such as class, race, gender, and family role – have impacted those experiences? What is your vision of a better world, in which all are cared for – and how do we get there from here? What role can the nonprofit sector play in enacting that vision?
We plan to raise these questions and more throughout YNPN – via the blog, during next week’s national YNPN Leaders Conference, and in more ways to come. Tell us your own thoughts and reactions in the comment section below or on our Facebook, or Twitter, and join the conversation.
By Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
The second in a 3-part blog series by Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
Pedro Trujillo is 23 years old and has been organizing around immigration reform for 4 years, currently at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles(CHIRLA). He tells an important story of unintended consequences—of unintentionally pitting generations against one another in the national movement to pass the Dream Act.
Instead, he says, he would like people who were pushed out of high school and did not obtain their diplomas to take ownership of the fact that they too are Dreamers. "I want immigrant grandparents and families to step out and say, 'We are Dreamers too!'"
With what he calls "the small but important victory of the Obama Administration’sdeferred action policy," multigenerational leadership was essential. "The whole reason we won 'deferred action' is that all parts of the immigration reform movement started saying the same thing, not just the youth."
|Jeanne Bell and Trish Tchume||In co-designing our joint conference, Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leadership Conference, YNPN and CompassPoint were committed to moving the generational differences conversation forward to how the generations can and are working together for progressive social change. One of our panelists was especially provocative on the topic.|
|The mainstream often expressed acceptance of the Dream Act because eligible young people were "not at fault" and were "brought here against their will." He says this messaging came about in part through immigrant-youth-led discussions on what language would work best and be viable with mainstream America.||Youth activists from CHIRLA’s, Wise UP! program in Los Angeles|
|"Once young immigrant leaders began to incorporate these talking points into their story of self, many other students adopted it without question. Naturally, politicos jumped on this messaging too, as well as the media and everyone else. I say naturally because it is easier to stand next to and demand for an undocumented student to be considered 'American' if they are on their way to a degree, than to do the same for someone who is a household worker or fast-food restaurant employee and is also undocumented.|
We agree with Pedro that activists across the generations have more that unites them than distinguishes them; our work together is the only path to meaningful victories in the work for social equity.
By Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund for their investment in our collaborative national convening and this blog series it inspired.
Over half of the 900 respondents identified as YNPN members. So the survey results - which provided enough data for four compelling articles featured in the June 28, 2012 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy - not only tells the story of what is happening for young people accross the sector, but gives special insight into the experience of those attracted to the YNPN network. Together the four articles tell the story of critical challenges facing our constituents, from concerns over healthcare access to mounting debt - challenges which mirror those of so many workers in America and the vulnerable populations often served by our sector.
To read the full articles, click through to the links below (Chronicle login required for some):
- Fledgling Nonprofit Workers Bear Financial Burdens
- Health-Care Law Helps Young Nonprofit Workers Get Coverage—From Their Parents
- The Gender Gap in Pay Among Young Nonprofit Workers
- Early-Career Nonprofit Employees: a Portrait
For the second time, YNPN was invited back to the White House for a tweet-chat with Jon Carson (@joncarson44), Director of Public Engagement at the White House to have a frank conversation about young people and the future of the nonprofit sector.
It’s not news that the job of nonprofit Executive Director is challenging and demanding. Often filling roles that would be several staff positions if the funding allowed, Executive Directors are expected to master a broad set of skills in order to effectively lead their organization and ensure its sustainability. However, we are learning that in order to meet those demands an increasing number of Executive Directors are employing strategies to share leadership within their organization in order to distribute responsibility and to develop staff bench strength.
In Daring to Lead 2011 Brief 2: Inside the Executive Director Job, CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation highlight this growing trend toward shared leadership in the nonprofit sector. A collaborative approach to leading an organization can range from engaging staff in the responsibility of decision-making to replacing the singular executive role with several executive-level leaders. Defined broadly, the vast majority of the respondents in the Daring to Lead study described their leadership style as shared or inclusive of others within the organization. As a result, the report recommends executives, boards, and funders consider support for operationalizing shared leadership within the sector.
These findings are supported by YNPN’s 2011 National Voice Initiative, which surveyed over 1,100 emerging nonprofit leaders across the country. Conducted in Spring 2011 with a full report release expected in October 2011, YNPN’s National Voice Survey tested several interventions targeting leadership development in the nonprofit sector. The findings demonstrate that there a growing number of nonprofit organizations experiencing positive change through shared leadership. YNPN asked young leaders their perspective on moving away from traditional models of the Executive Director role by decentralizing responsibility and flattening the hierarchy. Although only a small percentage of respondents had experienced such changes in their organization, a significant majority of those respondents reported the changes were effective in building more sustainable and collaborative organizations. This positive response was significantly higher than any other intervention tested in the survey.
The results of the Daring to Lead and YNPN’s National Voice Initiative point us in the direction of an inclusive approach to organizational leadership, one that does not depend on one leader or structure but rather a team of leaders and a nimble organization ready to seize opportunities and address challenges. This approach not only relieves some of the burden placed on Executive Directors to be many things to many people, but also creates opportunities for young leaders in the organization to emerge. One of the hallmarks of the younger generation is a tendency toward collaboration, and this inclination will serve the nonprofit sector well as these young professionals take on Executive roles. Regardless of whether the structure is overtly nontraditional or simply inclusive of staff engagement, it is likely the nonprofits of the future will be employing this community-minded approach. The inclusivity that has made this sector so appealing to young people will be applied to our internal organizational models, resulting in a built-in development structure that values the talents and strengths of the team.
This post comes to us from Lydia McCoy, Danielle Holly, and Dan Dobin- YNPN National board members and members of YNPN National's National Voice Committee, the team preparing for the upcoming release of a report on leadership. Look for YNPN’s full report on emerging leadership and tested leadership strategies this November, and visit http://ynpn.org for more about engaging the next generation of nonprofit leadership.
The report highlights some of the biggest challenges facing the nonprofit sector today and provides insight into how young professionals and the organizations they work for are working to address these issues.
We can’t thank local YNPN chapters enough for all the support they’ve provided in making this report reflect the unique perspectives and innovative ideas of YNPN members across the country. Over the past few months, five of our local chapters have conducted focus groups to bounce the high-level report findings off members who experience these issues every day on the ground. Members from across the country sounded off on the hot button issues of leadership development, diversity, new organizational structures, nonprofit compensation and the changing state of the sector.
These conversations, led by YNPN’s chapter leaders in Denver, Cincinnati, Twin Cities, Washington DC and Houston, bring the report findings to life, and we wanted to give you a preview of what our members are saying.
Why do you think some nonprofits embrace leadership development and others don't? Is it simply an issue of resources or are there other reasons why organizations aren't taking it on?
“Conversations on leadership change are not happening between those in power and those who are not in power. “ - YNPN member in D.C.
“What about the other way around? Do young people have plans to approach supervisors and others and talk about how to develop? I feel like my workplace would be supportive of those conversations. It has to be two ways!” - YNPN member in Twin Cities
When asked to hypothetically play the role of a philanthropist or ED and allocate a part of your budget, offering more competitive compensation was far and away the winner among all other categories. Why is this so important?
“Nonprofit people ARE competitive and results-driven and want their hard work reflected. “ – YNPN member in Cincinnati
“It doesn’t always need to be money. I think that it is sometimes extra vacation or shorter hours as compensation.” - YNPN member in Houston
What do you think are the biggest benefits/biggest drawbacks of changing traditional organizational structures?
“Spreading the director responsibilities makes that position more manageable and allows several peoples' strengths to come together.” – YNPN member in Denver
“I've worked in the linear style organizations and there was a lot of passing the buck- where no one had to have an answer but anyone could have the answer. We were always scrambling to run smoothly.” - YNPN member in Houston
Most survey respondents reported that the organizations they worked for had a diverse staff, but not at the management level. What are your thoughts on diversity in the sector?
“It's treating an adaptive issue as a technical issue. I worked at a place that had a checklist of things like ‘Do we have decorations of different cultures in our office?’. What it should be about is busting through your cultural paradigm.” -YNPN member from Twin Cities
“There are definitely more women in nonprofit sector than in the corporate sector, but there are still more men in leadership roles.” – YNPN member in Denver
Although many respondents were committed to ensuring their careers focused on social impact, only a portion of those were committed to the nonprofit sector. What are the implications for the sector?
“Why actually work at a nonprofit if I can make an impact in these other roles [nonprofit volunteer or board member] and not deal with negatives of nonprofit employment?” – YNPN member in Cincinnati
“We need to anticipate a shift that breaks down the line between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. That means finding ways for the for-profit model to be more responsible, and for nonprofits, looking toward new revenue models.” - YNPN member from Twin Cities
What are your ideas on how young nonprofit professionals can help solve these issues? Do you agree or disagree with the reactions of our members?
Read the YNPN’s 2011 National Voice Report A special thanks to YNPN’s local chapters in Denver, Cincinnati, Twin Cities, Washington DC and Houston for running focus groups and sharing the conversations with the network.
Networking (verb)- to meet professional contacts to increase your understanding of an area, build contacts in that area, or advance your career.
Informational Interview (noun)- networking in an interview-like style. Informational interviews are advantageous over traditional networking, because you demonstrate interest and they have time to get to know you. It can be particularly helpful if you apply to their organization or they may be aware of organizations or people who are hiring or might align better with your interests.
So how do you do set up an informational interview if you don’t know anyone? Well you can’t really. I’ve tried calling organizations outright. When you’re routed through a secretary they are very hesitant to set up an appointment for you with “anyone.”
You can find peoples’ names on the internet. If you’re crafty, you can figure out what their email address scheme is, like email@example.com, and contact them directly. I’ve met a few CEOs and VPs this way, because they are the people who might actually be listed on the website.
Otherwise, make friends. Join professional networks like YNPN; get involved on a volunteer basis with an organization you’re interested in; see what people you know are doing through LinkedIn; check alumni networks from college; and go out to parties where you can actually hear what other people are saying.
When you do meet someone in your desired area or career ask them what networks they are involved in or email list-serves they subscribe to. To that effect, let me make a few other recommendations about how to initiate, conduct, and conclude an informational interview with a contact you’ve acquired.
Prior to an interview:
- Clearly state your goals (i.e. find out about a field or learn more about how to get into their specific occupation) and what you hope they can do for you.
Read the rest of Lauren's tips at YNPN Chicago's Blog
About the contributor:
Lauren recently completed her masters in Health Management at Columbia University in New York. Her previous experiences include developing marketing strategy for a Health Information Exchange in Michigan and conducting policy analysis for the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.Upon taking her current position as the Development Manager working on the ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety she moved to Chicago and got connected, through an informational interview, to YNPN Chicago in January 2011.
According to a recent New York Times article, Millennials are increasingly seeking employment with the nonprofit sector. Applications for AmeriCorps positions have almost tripled (91,399 in 2008 to 258,829 in 2010), and the number of applicants for Teach for America climbed 32% last year to a record 46,359. This is certainly exciting news for the sector and speaks to the potential of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network – both nationally and here in Detroit – to start a movement advancing social change.
There is a challenge inherent to this groundswell of interest by Millennials, though: Are nonprofits ready for them? I’m sure that every YNPN Detroit member has run across instances where the generation gap has posed a significant challenge. After all, many Boomers view Millennials to be lazy, disrespectful and self-absorbed. Meanwhile, Millennials seem to become easily frustrated with the close-mindedness of the seniors of the field. For example, Millennials often seek to incorporate technology and social media into the daily workings of an organization, though many Boomers find such efforts unnecessary and a waste of time. This can lead to frustration on both sides. If we in the nonprofit sector don’t take steps to mitigate this generational gap, will we risk losing Millennials to other sectors?
Continue reading at YNPN Detroit's blog.
About the author:
Tammie Jones, Co-Chair of YNPN Detroit Tammie Jones is a Council of Michigan Foundations Public Policy Fellow with The Skillman Foundation. There, she works on policy and advocacy issues impacting the Foundation’s Good Schools work, with a particular focus on assisting in the development of the citywide education infrastructure and ensuring access to high-quality schools within the Foundation’s target neighborhoods.
Prior to this position, Tammie worked for more than ten years with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Virginia, helping to establish two new locations serving a combined 400 youth members. In May 2009, Tammie completed her MBA at the University of Michigan – Ross School of Business, where she was selected by her peers to receive the Frank S. Moran Leadership Award. Tammie currently serves as an Advisory Board member for the Salvation Army, Eastern Michigan Division.
Once again, I left the YNPN National Conference inspired and encouraged by the energy, passion, and commitment of YNPNers to make a difference in our communities. At its core, YNPN is about creating the kind of change we want to see in the world, whether it’s a particular mission or the concept of giving back in general that motivates us. This theme appeared several times during the conference, and caused me to wonder: are we really the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, or would it be more accurate to call us the Young Social Change Movement? Is it important to us that we work for a 501(c)3 organization, or simply that we make a difference?
During the Innovation Series on Friday I was struck by the organizations that talked about how they purposefully set their business up as a for-profit venture in order to best support the nonprofit sector. Tommy Allen, who kicked off the series, is a community activist and editor of Rapid Growth Media, but his paid job is in the for profit sector. Elemental Media, who promotes online stories of the good work accomplished by nonprofits, stated they chose a for-profit model because they didn’t want to be competing for funding with those they serve. Cool People Care also chose the for-profit path because they wanted to be, as he stated it, “collaborative, not competitive”.
I see this trend in other capacity-building organizations and support services for the sector. I’m wondering if this is simply a case of for-profit entrepreneurs getting involved in cause work or whether it’s telling us something bigger about our sector’s capacity to support and promote itself. I’m not suggesting that all missions and causes can be better served in a for-profit model; the nonprofit sector serves some of the most vulnerable populations whose best interests should not be determined by for-profit shareholders. However, when it comes to serving ourselves, should the nonprofit business model be our first choice, or even second?
One highlight of the preliminary results of the YNPN National Survey tells us that although only 34% of us are committed to working in the nonprofit sector, 56% of us must have a social mission to what we do, regardless of the sector. Another 29% were unsure whether they would need a social mission, but only 15% stated that it was not an important factor in where they work. In these results, YNPNers have prioritized mission over tax code, the end results achieved over the means by which they were achieved.
In the not so distant past, I have been quick to reject the idea that the nonprofit model doesn’t serve us well. It’s the funding dynamics, I can hear myself say, or it’s the leadership structures, and the restrictions that people have interpreted too conservatively on nonprofits’ right to advocate and lobby. I firmly believe these issues present barriers, and struggle with how we can address the inequities in the system. However, I’m starting to also struggle with how we are defining nonprofit work. It seems the similarities between a small grassroots nonprofit and the design platform business that allows them to tell their stories are much greater than that grassroots nonprofit and St. Anthony’s Hospital, Tulane University, or the National Football League.
So I’d love to hear your thoughts, YNPNers: when it comes to the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, how central does the nonprofit element remain for you as the lines blur between sectors?
A note about our contributor: As Executive Director, Lydia McCoy has led the Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition’s efforts to promote vaccination through education and advocacy since 2007. Lydia previously worked as Capital Campaign Coordinator for The Gathering Place- a homeless women’s shelter in Denver- and has experience working in fund development and program management for art education, public radio, and child welfare nonprofits in New Orleans and Denver. Lydia has a BA in Political Science from Tulane University and Master of Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Recently, she has served on the Strategic Planning Committee for Regis University’s MNM program, the Leadership Advisory Council for the Colorado Nonprofit Association, was a Fellow with Social Venture Partners Denver, and participated in the El Pomar Nonprofit Executive Leadership Program. She currently sits on the YNPN National Board, Governor’s Vaccine Advisory Committee for Colorado, on the Board of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, and is past President of YNPN Denver. She also enjoys the occasional onomatopoeia. Pow!
We don’t want to create a sector of talkers instead of doers. Not to mention, if we want to gain the respect of the other generations that have already been working in the nonprofit sector, we have to make sure that we appear ready to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We are a generation of idealists, positive thinkers, and motivated learners. These are all good things. Let them be our strength, and not our downfall!