It’s been quite an adventure serving as a YNPN LaunchPad Fellow these last nine months.
When I started as YNPN National’s Talent Coordinator, I was new to YNPN and eager to plug into a network of supportive peers and colleagues who, like me, were building their careers in the nonprofit sector. LaunchPad provided me a unique two-fold opportunity: to build my own professional path, while helping build YNPN as a dynamic, evolving, increasingly influential national organization.
LaunchPad in itself was a bold new experiment for YNPN, and the Talent Coordinator position was no exception. My charge was to help YNPN align its organizational values and goals with its strategy for recruiting and managing talent (folks like our chapter leaders, national staff and board). Though it was not clear whether or how a talent manager would be part of future YNPN staffing structures, it was clear to me how much YNPN sought to be intentional about its values, culture, and strategy - especially how that showed up in the day-to-day, year-to-year experience of its leaders.
In that spirit, new resources and blog content - focusing on leadership development, volunteer management, organizational assessments, and more - began to emerge. In my first blog post I shared some of my lessons and philosophy about talent management, as they often aligned with YNPN’s own ideas.
Later, I reflected on the results of our Virtual Road Trip, through which YNPN National learned about out chapters’ major experiences, challenges, and opportunities with managing their own talent. This data, combined with ongoing research on talent management within and beyond the nonprofit sector, inspired YNPN’s first webinar series, “Developing Human Capital for Chapter Success”.
Finally, I got personal. A professional development session with the LaunchPad team on “Complexifying Self Care” inspired a blog post and later a Spark Speech and break out session at this year’s YNPN National Leaders Conference. So many of our YNPN leaders are grappling with how to work sustainably, live healthily, and live out their callings to the nonprofit sector. This conversation is much larger than YNPN alone, most recently prompting a crosspost between YNPN and Idealist Careers.I am deeply grateful for all of this dialogue - and action - around how to collectively build a nonprofit sector that intentionally and strategically ensures that well-being of its leaders and the integrity of our work.
This spring, I hinted at a report in development, which would articulate YNPN’s own model for recruiting, developing, and managing talent. That report is now available ([wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=87 linktext='Talent Management Report - YNPN 2013' /]), and I welcome your feedback. What are your own chapters’ stories regarding talent? What values and strategies inform the ways your workplaces develop their leaders? How can research and story-telling help us build the systems and structures we need to support leaders working for social change?
Read Report Here: [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=87 linktext='Talent Management Report - YNPN 2013' /]
I hope you’ll stay in touch as this first cycle of LaunchPad Fellowships wraps up, and I take on a new role with YNPN moving forward. Can’t wait to get active in my local chapter!
By Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator
For many people, being a board member conjures up images of wealthy people writing checks and hosting fundraisers. While supporting the financial well being of a nonprofit is certainly part of a board member’s responsibility, there is a range of roles that board members can play and plenty of opportunities for people to volunteer their time and talent to support an organization they love.
This month I celebrate my one-year anniversary as a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals NetworkNational Board. I joined the YNPN Board because I understand the importance of supporting and cultivating the next generation of nonprofit leaders, which will help ensure the sustainability of the sector in the long-term.
As a result of my pro bono work with YNPN’s National Director in the months prior to joining the board, I felt excited for this opportunity not only to give back by sharing my expertise, but also to gain new skills. This first anniversary has me thinking about some of what I have learned in the last year from this experience. I thought that it would be worthwhile to share a few specific ways that my board service has helped my career and how it might help yours, too:
Expand your network
A big responsibility of being on a board is raising awareness and funds for the organization. As a result, I have had the opportunity to connect with supporters from a variety of places.
For example, in the last year, I have come into direct contact with officials from well-known foundations, many leaders and members of YNPN chapters from across the country, some of the generous sponsors of our National Leaders Conference, and some of our strategic partners. By connecting with all of these people, I can get their assistance in pushing YNPN forward, but I also have the opportunity to deepen our relationship in the future. Since first being introduced to the writings of Keith Ferrazzi and his colleagues at Ferrazzi Greenlight, I have made it my business to build my network before I need it, so that it’s vital and ready whenever I need to call upon people in it; this strategy allows me to have greater long-term reach in my personal and professional lives.
Raise your profile in your organization and profession
By being on a board, I not only expanded my network but I also picked up new skills, ideas, and opportunities for my full-time work.
Just talking about some of the work I have been doing on the YNPN National Board has led to some interesting conversations at work and (I hope) displayed my commitment to building a long and successful career in the non-profit sector. Additionally, having direct board experience has definitely rounded out my approach to dealing with the members of the I-House Board of Trustees in all areas.
Strengthen project and team management skills
If you join a board, chances are you’ll join a committee (or a few) which means you’ll have to learn quickly how to manage projects and teams in order to help move the organization forward.
Personally, I have had to step up my game when it comes to project and team management, especially because we do the bulk of our work remotely. Managing your work as part of a team and assuring that the team moves forward is hard enough when done face-to-face, but requires extra focus and greater attention to detail when done remotely. These skills have surely bled over into my professional life as I have found myself being as clear as possible about strategy and goals, while also striving to be kept accountable as I keep my co-workers accountable.
Become a better coach
While being a board member can certainly help you grow your network, the real impact and change come when you do some hands-on work, specifically by helping others reach important goals.
At my first National Board Retreat, I led an informal session on fundraising to get an idea of how comfortable my fellow members were with fundraising concepts and making the ask. After establishing this baseline, I have partnered with my colleagues on the Board Development Committee to provide resources to deepen our collective fundraising knowledge and have worked one-on-one with each member on their personal giving & fundraising goals for the year. This individual work has allowed me to build coaching skills that will come in handy in my own efforts to better integrate the members of my organization’s board into the full spectrum of our fundraising program.
For those readers who are currently on boards or recently served on one, what skills did you gain and how did that impact your work?
For those who have not yet sat on a board, what would you like to get out of this service? And if you are considering it, what is giving you pause?
Dan is the Assistant Director of Development, Individual Giving at International House, a residential learning community primarily for international graduate students pursuing their studies in the Greater New York region. In this role, he oversees the annual fund, major gifts and planned giving portfolios. Dan blogs about fundraising and non-profit management issues at The Good Steward.
Your colleague in fundraising down the hall — social and connected as she may be — is actually craving deeper, more meaningful relationships.
And you’re far from alone if you’ve been nostalgic recently for close pals from years past.
How do we know this? Thanks to The State of Friendship in America Report, 2013 – a study we released at Lifeboat last month that sheds new light on the dire social landscape facing adults across the country.
A few key findings to start:
- Less than a quarter of Americans say they are truly satisfied with their friendships and almost two-thirds lack confidence in even their closest friends.
- Generation X’ers and Boomers (those in their prime working years) are hit hardest by the trend, indicating a “mid-life friendship slump.”
- Most Americans–by more than 2 to 1–would prefer to have deeper friendships than more friends.
It adds up to a national malaise we’re calling the “Friendship Crisis.” What does this personal situation have to do with the workplace? Lots.
First, friendship is a major dynamic in people’s lives. Nobody just leaves it at home. With the release of our study, we now have a scientifically clear-eyed view of the difficulties adults have really connecting with each other in the digital age. For managers, colleagues, marketers and HR professionals, friendship is incredibly relevant.
Also, you’ve probably heard the conventional management wisdom that suggests friends and work don’t mix, right? Well, we’re not convinced and all our experience tells us collegial friendships are inevitable anyways. In this light, the more productive question to ask is: how do I do it right?
A PROFESSIONAL FRIEND-FREE ZONE
Before we answer that question: why do traditionalists argue against pals at the office in the first place?
They say that mixing work and friendship can blur decision making and make difficult calls more difficult. Some worry that friends in the office can lead to distracting — even inappropriate — behavior. How can someone operate in the best interest of the organization, they ask, if they’re also worried about their BFF? These issues get real for mangers facing such difficult situations as annual reviews — or worse layoffs — involving close friends. All good reasons – they say – to remain socially guarded in our cubicles.
3 REASONS TO EMBRACE FRIENDS AT WORK
Still, advocates like us for a friend-friendly approach to work suggest this line of thinking is outmoded.
First, with just about everyone spending more time at work — and/or more time on work at home — colleagues can often seem like the best social option. Where else would you find so many people with similar interests, passions and values? And according to our State of Friendship Report 42% of adults say they met at least one of their closest friends at work. The percent rising to 42% for Gen-Xers (age 35-49) and to 50% of Baby Boomers (age 50-69). So work friends can indeed work.
Second, close friendships at work can make you happier with your job. According this a study in the Journal of Business Psychology, workers report higher job satisfaction when they felt they had even the opportunity for friendships at the office. A 2013 survey of 2223 business people across Australia found most planning to stick with their current job — and they cited “good relationship with co-workers” as the major reason (67 percent) above even salary (46 percent).
Third, collegial friends can help you succeed. Leaders need people in their lives who nurture them through the tough times and who challenge them to be their best selves and live up to their dreams and potential. Sometimes it’s only workmates who can truly understand where you are at and offer cogent advice.
SO HOW SHOULD YOU DO FRIENDSHIP AT WORK?
With these arguments in mind, here are three strategies we recommend for starting to create your workplace Lifeboat:
Go Deep not Wide
Nurturing quality relationships takes time, emotional energy and cognitive capacity – all of which are limited. Anthropologists suggests that thanks our limited brain capacities, we can only maintain casual social relationships with less than 150 individuals—a principle known as Dunbar’s number. Deep relationships with strong bonds on the other hand, tend to occur in what psychologists refer to as sympathy groups—groups of 10-15 people. And more than 2-to-1 American adults say they would prefer these deeper relationships over more connections.
So we still recommend cultivating a large professional network, but we also suggest investing oneself more deeply and personally with a handful of people you trust — you professional Lifeboat.
You’ve probably noticed how people tend to befriends others similar to themselves. It’s a phenomenon known by social science as “Homophily or “love of the same”. Trouble is much of the reward of friendship come from learning and growth from the different experience of others, something called the “Michelangelo effect.” To help, try mixing up your professional Lifeboat in terms of age, seniority, gender, skills and nationality.
Give 1% More
As young professionals go through life family, work and other demands occupy an increasing amount of time and brain space. Often this takes a toll on time spent with friends. The average American adult spends 4% of their time with friends – down from 30% as teenagers!
Our recommendation here is simply to invest one percent additional time with friends each week (1 hour 30min). It doesn’t have to be big – think an extra phone call, a lunch date, or a quick note for a job well done.
We think of these small changes — choosing your lifeboat, breaking the inertia, giving 1% more — as investments that will pay back dividends. Social scientists are finding friends makes us feel more satisfied, connected, grounded and supported – ready to tackle the professional and personal challenges we face.
If I had a dollar (or even a dime) for each time I read or was told that “following my passion” is the premier pathway to a successful career and overall life satisfaction, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I don’t doubt the tremendous value-add and personal fulfillment that accompanies a strong connection to your work and/or your organization’s mission. But personally, I find the ‘passion ethos’ lacks a healthy dose of practicality, especially for a mid-career professional who may be asking themselves, “What’s next?” (Spoiler alert: I am this person asking myself this question.)
If I answered myself solely on my passions (i.e., interests or activities I really enjoy, independent of whether I have the skills, talent, or experience to support them), a quirky, improbable list develops - I could try to become the world’s first storm-chasing mediterranean chef adorned in vintage garb, but I’m not convinced I’d get there.
It’s no surprise then that I would click on a link floating around Facebook titled “Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort” (even if it was penned by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban). His argument is simple: Jumping down passion’s rabbit holes can be a huge waste of time. Instead, pay attention to how you spend your time and the instances in which you go the extra mile. Your effort will lead to expertise, fertile grounds for enjoyment and passion, which can easily grow success.
Here’s why I like Cuban’s post:
Time is a valuable asset and, like your paycheck, how you spend it is telling.
Fellow YNPNer Josh Dye recently provided great strategies for making the most of our time. Once your time management habits are in-check, start tracking those maximized minutes and hours. Do you spend a lot of your out-of-work time volunteering? Following local issues? Perfecting your jump shot or backswing?
I reflected on this point and realized that I spend a lot of my time on personal relationships. I frequently offer to help with whatever project or challenge is top-of-mind, and I enjoy every minute of it. This may indicate my next career experience should involve plenty of stakeholder engagement and problem-solving.
Sometimes, passion follows hard work, not the other way around.
Have you ever found yourself really getting into something that totally surprised you? My example of this is becoming a map-nerd. I took a few GIS classes in college, but I wouldn’t say that it was ever my “passion.” My job responsibilities required mapping on occasion - nothing too advanced - but as my skills developed, so did my interest. Before long, I requested additional training and started subscribing to blogs and listservs; my passion for social demography grew exponentially. Who knew? I didn’t - at first. Approaching “other duties as assigned” with an awareness for voluntary extra effort can lead us to something greater - like discovery or success.
Passion is not always the starting point. What we actually do with our time and effort - not simply what we dream of doing - can provide more insight into where we might find meaningful experiences and, ultimately, success.
How has your idea of fulfilling your passion changed or stayed the same?
At last month’s YNPNdc Leadership Conference, I facilitated a panel discussion with two of the most dynamic people I know in the career management and personal branding businesses. Karen Chopra owns a thriving career counseling practice in the district and Davie Uejio who is the Lead for Talent Acquisition at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The conversation was informative, enlightening and inspiring…and almost impossible to distill into a few thoughts. Here are a few key takeaways for me.
- We can’t control what’s happening in the workplace. There is constant change—new careers, new organizations, and new ways to share information. If you step back, you might miss a great opportunity.
- We can control our reputation and our message, what we can contribute and our skills and knowledge.
- We are ultimately in charge of our careers. Although we might not be able to avoid a layoff or suddenly find ourselves working for a not-so-great boss, we can be ready for unexpected change.
To do that, ask yourself these questions to see if you do own your career:
- Do you know what you’d like to do? What lights you up—makes you want to jump out of bed every day because you can’t wait to get started? If you know, write it down—make it yours. Keep adding to it and refining the description. If you don’t, consider everything you read or hear about through the possibility of it to becoming a potential career.
- Where is the work you think needs to be done getting accomplished? What are the careers that will get you there? What are the organizations that are aligned with your personal goals and purpose? Learn more—find people who work there. Ask for informational interviews. Become familiar with what they’re doing. Follow them on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups.
- What skills do you need so your resume will get noticed? If you need to develop new skills or enhance current ones, how will you do it?
- How strong is your network? Who’s in your corner who can talk about your skills? How have you helped others achieve their career goals? They may be the people who can help you now. Continually strengthen your relationships.
- What’s your LinkedIn profile telling others about you? Have you googled yourself lately? Find out what others can easily learn about you. Don’t put anything on the web that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. Look for what might harm you and work to have it removed.
- Take action every day to move your career forward. Tomorrow will bring surprises—both good and bad. The key is having clarity about what you want, knowing what you need to get there and creating the message that communicates that you can uniquely do the work.
You’re interested in developing your professional skills, but haven’t taken action. Why not? Chances are that you – or your nonprofit organization – are operating under a common professional development myth. I’ve outlined four of these myths below, including reasons they shouldn’t hold you back from developing your best professional self. Hopefully I can convince you and you can convince your organization to invest in professional development.
MYTH #1: It only benefits the individual
Some nonprofits are hesitant to invest time and funds in professional development because they believe it only benefits you, the individual. They worry their investment will walk out the door if you leave the organization. This viewpoint is short-sighted. Yes, the individual gains from professional development opportunities. But having a representative from your organization at conferences, seminars and events is a great opportunity to educate the nonprofit community about your organization’s mission and programs. Having a presence at these events also allows for new partnerships between organizations. Finally, the individual attending – you! – will bring new knowledge back to the organization that can then be applied to programs over the long term.
MYTH #2: It’s expensive
Sure, some professional development opportunities are expensive. But you can also find a number of low-cost or free events. YNPN-TC is a great place to start, offering monthly events at little or no cost. In addition, some more costly events offer scholarships or allow discounted rates for volunteers. If the cost is prohibitive, don’t be afraid to ask if opportunities exist to make the event more affordable.
MYTH #3: Networking doesn’t count
Talking one-on-one with someone over a drink can be just as valuable – or more so – than sitting through a lecture and PowerPoint. People meet and connect with colleagues in many ways, and networking events are one of those opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with having fun while you’re developing your network, as long as you keep it professional. Sometimes the best connections made are those one-off conversations that lead to a new partnership for your organization or a new opportunity for you personally.
MYTH #4: You can’t do it without your organization’s support
While it’s great when your organization supports professional development, this unfortunately isn’t always the case. Don’t let it hold you back. There are many professional development opportunities that take place outside work hours. Happy hour events or weekend conferences are not uncommon, and will allow you to pursue your professional development goals on your own time. Check out the low-cost Minnesota Rising Un/Conference – it’s held in annually in the fall; visit their website this summer for more info on 2013.
Next time you find yourself making an excuse instead of attending a professional development event, make sure one of these myths isn’t behind your reasoning. Take the time to convince your organization – and yourself – that professional development is worth the investment.
Have you run into these, or other, professional development myths? What have you done to overcome them?
Do you have a favorite low-cost professional development event or organization?
Last fall at a conference, I had the chance to sit in on a session facilitated by Kirk Kramer of the Bridgespan Group. During the session, Kirk shared a framework for developing organizational leaders laid out in a recent report written by he and his colleague Preeta Nayak entitled, What’s Your “Plan A” for Growing Future Leaders? If you haven’t had the chance to read the report yet, I highly recommend. It does a solid job of drawing the link between leadership development throughout an organization (especially younger leaders) and the growth and sustainability of any organization. It also couples this development with other key planning processes like budgeting and strategic planning. So Plan A pulls what is often seen as peripheral or an afterthought for most organizations into the center, encourages organizations to be proactive about this process, and (best yet) offers a step by step process for building an organizational culture that supports development. (Who doesn’t love step-by-step?)
Okay back to that conference...
Kirk shared during his session that Bridgespan’s Plan A framework had its roots in the Center for Creative Leadership’s “70-20-10” model. This model, based on extensive research, sets 70 percent on-the-job learning, 20 percent coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent formal training as the optimal mix for adult learning and development.
While I was quite familiar with the Center for Creative Leadership, before Kirk’s session, I had never heard of the 70-20-10 model, but found that it aligned almost exactly with YNPN’s “Pillars of Leadership Development” - four key areas that have our members have identified over YNPN’s 15 years as most valuable to their own leadership development.
The missing link from the 70-20-10 model, however, that so many of our members site as essential to their own growth is “access to a networks.” As I travel the country meeting with members, I hear time and again that skills-based trainings provided by organizations like ours, coaching and mentoring (which chapters are increasingly offering), and a place to apply those skills via “stretch” opportunities on the job or even board service are important pieces of their work to grow as effective change agents. But YNPNers cite just as equally the importance of being able to have these experiences in community and to access and discover new opportunities via the network.
So as giants in the field of sector research and leadership development continue to refine these models for building stronger leaders and more effective organizations for addressing society’s most pressing problems, it is important not to overlook the critical importance of networks. Next generation leaders know that individual and even organizational development falls short without connection and collaboration.
It’s hard to work at nonprofits these days without hearing about the leadership challenges our sector faces.What kind of leaders do we need? Who will lead the sector in years to come? How are we cultivating and supporting the next generation?
Gregory Cendana is tackling these questions as the youngest and first openly gay executive director of theAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American union members and allies to advance worker, immigrant, and civil rights. Although he was selected as the organization’s executive director when he was just 24-years-old in 2010, Gregory has been learning the ins-and-outs of organizing and leadership since he was a teenager.
At home, he heard his father, who emigrated from the Philippines, talk about his concerns with his union. Inspired to help his father and learn more about unions, in college Gregory secured an internship with the very same union that his father belonged to and became involved with campaigns in California and across the country. This led him to running (and being elected) as the president of the United States Student Association. These transformative experiences not only allowed him to develop critical skills in leadership development, public speaking, and coalition building, but also connected him with a mentor who soon encouraged him to apply for the executive director position at APALA.
With the help of a mentor, hands-on experience, and a desire to strengthen workers’ rights, Gregory is entering his third year as executive director.
Do you want to become an executive director of a nonprofit?
Here’s Gregory’s advice:
- Connect with current executive directors: “Get to know executive directors or people in similar positions. If you can, get them as mentors. Learn and understand what makes them good at what they do but also talk about the challenges they face and skills you should you pick up so you can handle the job.”
- Surround yourself with supportive people: “As friendly and gregarious as I am, there are moments when I feel like I am by myself. It’s a reminder of the responsibilities and what comes with the role; being an executive director can be lonely. But if you surround yourself with people that care about you and want to support you it will be easier.”
- Make sure the board is behind you: “When I interviewed for the position, I only met the executive board members, so just five people. At my first in-person board meeting, the majority of our 42-member board—and many were founding APALA members—were there. They said to me, ‘We have been doing this work for decades. We throw our support behind you and care about the next generation.’ This was important because it showed how the ideas I had and leadership’s vision of the organization were aligned.“
- For additional information, Gregory recommends Managing to Change the World by The Management Center.
- Want a leadership position at a nonprofit? Check out these opportunities on Idealist.
Gregory is currently the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and as Chair for the Labor Coalition for Community Action. Named one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 & the “Future of DC Politics”, Gregory is a recognized organizer, speaker, and trainer. Previously, he served as President of the United States Student Association (USSA), where he played an integral role in the passage of the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act and Healthcare & Education Reconciliation Act.
If you loved this article, read more of this series here.
This video - Dan Pallotta's The way we think about charity is dead wrong - has been rocketing around the internet over the past couple of weeks. Numerous people have emailed it to me and a couple have shared it on my facebook wall. All of them have been asking what I think.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it a few days ago and, honestly, what strikes me most about it is not the central message about how our emphasis on overhead misses both the point and the potential of the nonprofit sector. I don’t think Dan Pallota is saying anything that folks like Kim Klein or GIFT have been making for years - though I always appreicate when someone’s able to underscore an important point eloquently. Mr. Palotta does just that in his TED Talk, so I am very grateful to him.
What struck me most about Dan Pallotta's talk is that he’s trying to shine a bright light on something that isn't necessarily controversial. The vast majority of us agree that the way we think about nonprofit operations is broken. Even folks outside of the sector who don't have an understanding of the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization understand the simplicity of the argument that you can't solve big, complex problems with meager investments. What's difficult is where to and how to begin to change something that has become culturally comfortable, however dysfunctional. What are the first steps an individual, let alone a sector takes in making a fundamental shift in the way that it thinks and operates?
Last month, Rahsaan Harris, executive director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and I posted a blog and sent eblasts to our respective networks about something else that most of us agree is broken - power dynamics between funders and grantees in the nonprofit sector. We titled the eblast Beans & Cornbread - Rahsaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can't get along. But we also talked seriously about this need for a fundamental shift in the way that these dynamics play out and what we see as the role of our generation in facing these issues.
What Rahsaan and I found in our conversations surrounding the post was that agreeing that the fundamental relationship between the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector is problematic wasn't hard. Agreeing that EPIP and YNPN have a unique role to play in addressing these dynamics wasn’t hard either. It’s a conversation that our organizations have actually been having for years and our members are very ready for based on the numerous responses we got to the survey that accompanied the post. What's hard is figuring out what to do next.
After we sent out the post, many responded enthusiastically, “Saying, okay - what’s the plan?” Here’s the honest answer - we’re not really sure. EPIP and YNPN have taken important steps by co-facilitating power dynamics workshops together but know that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that it’s important to set the stage at the National level but also need our members to be talking one on one. We know that this conversation has and will take years (as fundamental shifts tend to) and it will take many of us working patiently together. So we're as curious and excited as everyone else to see where it will lead.
What we do know is that folks are ready - they’re past ready. So we’re ready too. And we’re looking forward to figuring this out together.
Photo by flutterface.co.uk
Over the past couple of months I’ve been conducting interviews with new and veteran YNPN National board members that have given me the chance to take the ideas I’ve developed over the years about talent management, the online research I’ve been immersed in most recently, and use it all to build an overarching narrative - the “YNPN Story”, if you will - about how our organization matches its ambitious goals with the leadership needed to accomplish them.
I wanted to find out how and why YNPN develops leaders in the particular way we do; what distinguishes our culture from the way other organizations operate; how our mission functions day-to-day through our work on the ground. I became curious about the themes that emerged in the interviews: the common joys and challenges these leaders had working in the nonprofit sector and with YNPN; the shared values that guided them in their professions and in building "a movement activating emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector".
I learned that there are many core values that distinguish YNPN and our approach to managing and developing talent. I’ll be pulling these together into a complete report, but here are some highlights so far:
- YNPN is powered by highly intelligent (yet accessible), self-starting, resourceful leaders who are devoted to the nonprofit sector at large, to their chapters, and to collaborating with and mutually supporting each other.
- YNPN provides explicit and implicit opportunities for professional growth and learning, no matter one’s age or experience level. YNPN’s very structure and leadership development model (chapters run by all-volunteer boards) propels its leaders’ careers to new levels.
- YNPN is committed to addressing the challenges that come with being an almost entirely volunteer-driven organization, including leadership turnover, limits on capacity, and the need for greater accountability and institutional memory.
- YNPN’s increased visibility and influence in the nonprofit sector, combined with rapid national and chapter level growth, require greater and more specific attention to the systems and structures it has in place to develop, manage and sustain both volunteer and paid staff.
Really great to see these themes emerge. Again, the full report will be shared soon, but what’s the goal of it? Trish and I aim to make it useful both internally and externally, so we can:
- ensure that attention to organisational culture and talent management are a central, intentional part of YNPN National’s growth in the months and years ahead.
- support YNPN leaders and chapters in conducting their own assessments to make this “network of inspired and engaged leaders” the most effective it can be.
- contribute to large sector conversations about managing talent and developing healthy, positive organizational culture.
Keep an eye out for the report coming soon. Meanwhile, it’s your turn to reflect:
- How would you tell your own story, as an emerging leader in the nonprofit sector? What were the moments that drew you to nonprofit work? How has YNPN met you you on that journey?
- How would you tell the story of your YNPN chapter? How did it first get off the ground? What did it take to get it where it is now, and what will it take for you to thrive in the future? What are the unique values that guide your chapter? What are its own unique structure and culture?
We invite everyone to respond with their reflections in the comment box below. For chapter leaders: to help you answer some of those questions at the chapter level, we’re hosting a series of interactive webinars on “Developing Talent for Chapter Success”. It will be a chance to hear from sector experts and chapter leaders across the country - as well as share your own experiences and questions. Together, we’ll learn about topics including:
- conducting organizational assessments and strategic planning
- developing the right leadership model / structure to meet organizational goals
- managing staff and volunteers effectively and retaining their long-term involvement
The first webinar is this Wednesday, March 20th at 8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific. Talk to you then!
By Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator