Trish Tchume, director of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), National, and Amanda Pape Lenaghan, Co-chair of YNPN San Francisco Bay Area (YNPNsfba) and Deputy Director Bay Area at Taproot Foundation, were recently interviewed by the Foundation Center for the Philanthropy Front and Center blog.
They discussed the recent YNPN report Good in Theory Problems in Practice: Young professionals’ views on popular leadership development strategies. The interview provides a great overview of the findings, what was surprising in the findings, and what the findings are saying about the future leadership of the nonprofit sector.
- Listen now! Hear the podcast through the GrantSpace multimedia archive.
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.
The following guest post comes from two founding members of YNPN Cleveland, Katie Artzner and Kari Mirkin. Both currently serve on the chapter's steering committee and wanted to share some perspective on YNPN Cleveland's recent work.
Is it the dreaded snowbelt season? The fact that we don’t get a shot at the Stanley Cup? Is it some other factor beyond our control? When we asked young nonprofit professionals if they have ever considered leaving their home base of Cleveland, Ohio for the sake of their career, 82% said yes.
Ok, first things first – the Cleveland caricature persists: A rusting, hollowed-out metropolis wearing plaid-on-plaid with white bucks, the Cuyahoga River aflame in the background. In the foreground, residents hold the candles of bitterness over bad sports breakups. It’s an old but resilient story – not the kind of thing you shake overnight.
So, when we at YNPN Cleveland wrote the newly-released report, Building a Career in Nonprofit Cleveland: Focus on the Nonprofit Identity, we knew we’d encounter high numbers associated with geographic dissatisfaction. We also hypothesized, though, that geography alone would be a chimera; that if certain flagging aspects within the sector were recognized and improved upon, the entire outlook of working here could change. That’s because if Cleveland’s got one truly enduring quality, it’s the capacity for change.
Founded in 2009, YNPN Cleveland is an emerging chapter, and we wanted to learn more about the working lives of our chapter members. Our recent report is based on a member survey we initiated and followed by a series of focus group sessions. I surmise that many of report’s major findings will resonate in Detroit, in LA and elsewhere, which is why you find this article on the national blog.
Let’s start with the broad strokes. No surprise, for instance, that we found Cleveland’s emerging nonprofit professionals to be eager for a challenge and well-educated (97% have a 4-year or post-grad degree). Another basic theory proven true: they are, by and large, attracted to the sector by a commitment to a cause or by a desire to “give back” to their community.
Nonprofit – that means you don’t get paid, right?
But what exactly IS the nonprofit job? Although the idea of working “for a cause” is typically ascribed to nonprofit work, the general public does not necessarily see the sector for its many disparate facets – world-class orchestras, billion-dollar private foundations, complex fundraising strategies, sliding-scale healthcare services. On several occasions I’ve been compelled to clarify that our chapter’s mission is not (solely) about promoting voluntarism; that our members generally seek for their nonprofit careers the same opportunities for advancement, training and benefits as their for-profit counterparts. So – is this misperception a marketing failure?
Are we so stratified in our goals that an over-arching “nonprofit identity” is simplistic?
Basically – is it drastic to say that the nonprofit sector has identity issues? Indeed, the low notes of an identity crisis are detectable in our survey; some of our respondents did not self-identify as nonprofit professionals, opting instead to describe themselves principally by subsector – as social workers, educators, etc. How important is it, anyway, that we define and promote a nonprofit identity? A recent article on the ASU Lodestar Center Blog points to the value of “sectorness” in providing a unified voice, for instance in the areas of advocacy and in increasing the professionalism of the field.
The ‘Swiss Army knife’ of careers?
Our survey found that while diversity of responsibility was rated as one of the main draws of the nonprofit career, job titles vary widely from position to position, making advancement across the sector a challenge. One organization’s program associate, for instance, is another organization’s project coordinator.
By focusing on skills rather than job titles when crafting their resumes, emerging professionals might have a better shot at transitioning from subsector to subsector, should the opportunity arise. Cleveland’s nonprofit leaders and university programs, for their part, could engage in an inspired collaboration to define the sector’s workforce skills by developing a taxonomy that could guide existing professionals on their career paths, help HR departments align titles with skillsets, and assist newly graduating students in understanding where their nonprofit career might lead.
And speaking of skills – formal training, mentoring and career goal-setting were the top 3 opportunities that survey respondents wished to see when asked about career development. Correspondingly, a low number reported that their current jobs offer such opportunities. If cash for training staff is not in the cards for some nonprofits, our paper suggests that employers consider flexible work schedules, allowing employees to pursue their own career advancement opportunities without having to take vacation days to do so.
Advanced degrees in nonprofit management are on the rise amid younger workers, and some of our focus group participants noted their ideas are not always taken seriously by their non-degreed co-workers and more-experienced managers. Since most survey respondents reported being employed in a nonprofit organization for under 5 years, we believe that this presents employers with an excellent opportunity to take steps toward instituting formal, in-house mentoring opportunities to bridge the gap between employees who are heavy on education but light on experience.
Further research into Cleveland’s nonprofit sector vs. other regions could clarify and build upon some of the survey findings that make up this report, but we hope our paper will generate some lively dialogue, filled with suggestions and ideas on how to move forward from here. One of the first solid initiatives to arise from this paper will be YNPN Cleveland’s launch of a formal nonprofit mentor program. We will begin accepting applications later this fall, with the goal of connecting interested chapter members to mid-career nonprofit professionals in their desired field or job type.
And while it’s anybody’s guess as to why some of Cleveland’s best and brightest might be considering a move elsewhere, anyone who’s visited Cleveland these days knows that Burning River is just really good beer.
About the authors:
Katie Artzner has a Master’s Degree from Kent State in Library and Information Science, and her background in public service has led her to embrace nonprofit work full time.
Kari Mirkin received her Master in Nonprofit Organizations degree from Case Western Reserve University in 2009. Her role with YNPN involves developing future nonprofit leaders in the region and promoting nonprofit work as a viable career choice.
Next Wednesday marks the 71st anniversary of the Dandi March. On April 6th, 1930, Mohandas K. Gandhi completed a 24-day, 250-mile journey from Sabarmati to Dandi, India, raised a fistful of salty mud into the air and pronounced, "With this I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire."
The Salt March is remembered as an act of great civil disobedience - which it definitely was - but I'd like to argue that the Salt March was also a great reminder for the people of India. A reminder that an essential building block of daily life, largely inaccessible, was actually well within reach. A reminder that a staple of sustainability, taxed beyond the affordability of most, didn't have to be. It was a reminder that the salt was already there, on Indian shores.
For nearly 15 years, YNPN has shared a similar story with a certain force, born of truth and love. Yes, at a local level, our individual chapters represent a place to connect, learn and grow with your colleagues working for community benefit organizations. But at a macro-level, YNPN has always been about equipping and empowering young people to lead and succeed - work that is grounded in the belief that everyone has something to offer wherever they find themselves in their career. In other words, at its core, YNPN's mission is about reminding folks that the salt is already embedded in their shores.
This past weekend was an amazing experience for me and the 200 other young people that converged upon the Furniture City to listen, share and celebrate. Inspirational sessions, innovative speakers and plenty of, ahem, informal networking solidified my belief that our generation is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. I am confident of this fact because the fire that fueled Gandhi's 250-mile march is the same fire that fuels our national board, your local chapter's board and every single one of the 30,000 YNPN members across the country.
The raw passion, energy and vision required to lead our communities through this decade and well beyond is limitless among and across our network. So, let us begin boiling the mud down to salt - ignoring the advice to "learn the ropes" or "wait our turn." Let us continue to hone our skill sets so we can lead, manage and grow our organizations with excellence. Let us shake the foundations of outdated 20th Century Empire thinking.
And let this be a reminder that the salt is already ours.
"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."
Denise Stein, Executive Director at Art of Leadership in Detroit spoke yesterday about the power of language. Many of us working in the nonprofit sector have found ourselves, on more than one occasion, facing barriers and conflicts that make it difficult for us to reach the goals we have set for ourselves and/or our organizations. As a result, sometimes, we may hear ourselves complaining to friends or co-workers. In my mind, the truth is- not all of those complaints are unjustified. In fact, I would argue that many of them probably are justified. Sometimes you have every right to be frustrated and often getting those frustrations out can be a very healthy and positive way to help yourself move forward. The problem, however, is that when repeated, those complaints can actually be much more powerful than we may realize.
Sometimes when talking about our causes, our words focus on the barriers and conflicts, a.k.a, the problems that need to be addressed. If we find ourselves spending more time talking about the problem as opposed to the solution, we can really hold ourselves back from moving forward. If the status quo needs to be changed, we should focus our language around our plans and goals for the future instead of the problem(s).
Denise said, “The language of complaint tells us, and others, what we cannot stand. The language of leadership/commitment tells us, and others what we stand for.” We can help reframe our own mindsets by focusing our language around what we want to see, instead of focusing on what we see but don’t like. By focusing on our goals and commitments, we empower ourselves to act on those commitments, instead of getting lost in frustration.
We have all heard the phrase ‘think outside of the box.’ In fact, it has probably become a little cliché at this point. No one really wants to think like everyone else. We all want to think of ourselves as ‘out of the box’ thinkers, at least, I do. An important thing to remember is that ‘thinking outside of the box’ doesn’t always refer to a collective cultural box that we all subscribe to. ‘Thinking outside of the box’ doesn’t always mean thinking differently from this group or that person. Often, it is our own boxes that we need to think outside of. More often than not, it is our own constraints and perceived limitations that we need to branch away from.
By reshaping the way that we talk and learning to constantly challenge our own ‘inside of the box’ thinking, we can position ourselves to make a much bigger impact in our communities. Never underestimate the power that the words we use can have on our own perceptions. And learn to take mental notes of our own repetitious behaviors. If we learn what ‘in the box thinking’ really looks like for ourselves, we might actually have a much better shot at learning how to think outside of it. And if we constantly remind ourselves of what we're working for, we will find ourselves empowered by motivation, instead of feeling burnt out and/or overwhelmed.
YNPN National is excited to announce a discount for YNPN members across the country on the just released How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar e-book by top nonprofit bloggers Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris.
They have co-authored the first book of its kind to offer career advice beyond just getting your foot in the door of a nonprofit organization. The book is a collection of Trista and Rosetta’s advice and lessons learned- and is certain to be a helpful resource to a young nonprofit professional looking to get to the next level. It is an engaging read, full of specific tips and engaging anecdotes about Trisha and Rosetta as well as other young professionals.
Synopsis from their website:
Do you feel stuck in your nonprofit career? Unsure how to take that next step? How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar is an accessible, do-it-yourself map of how to navigate the nonprofit sector and gives you the tools that you need to move from entry level to leadership. This book is designed for professionals who want to build meaningful and rewarding nonprofit careers. How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar is based on the authors’ experiences as well as interviews with nonprofit rockstars who have supercharged their careers. You’ll learn how to develop meaningful nonprofit experience, build a strong network, establish a strong personal brand, achieve the elusive work/life balance, and move on up in your career.
YNPN members receive a lifetime discount on the e-book version at http://www.e-junkie.com/shop/product/442001.php. Members can use the code YNPN to save $5 off the retail price.
The recent article in the Wall Street Journal on small charities being forced by bigger ones to change their names, colors and other portions of their branding really disturbed me. So now we, compassionate servants of social missions, are colorists?
I do understand the need to have a strong identity, but if you are constantly suing the other charities and keeping them from their mission, something's horribly wrong.
Let's not forget that we are social missions and well-run, well-financed organizations. If you really think your organization is losing money and/or manpower, go back to the drawing board and find a brand that can't be duplicated. Consider a merger even, especially if both groups are fighting for the same cause.
For too long, charities and other nonprofit social mission entities have been caught up with being like for-profit, publicly-traded corporations. Unlike shareholders that win if you maximize profit, you can lose your donors and stakeholders if they feel their money is being wasted or spent on overhead at the expense of the social mission.
Keeping that in mind, either re-write your mission such that it supports these type of brand defending activities or get back to funneling your money to the cause at hand.
What do you think? Is it ok to protect your slogans, logos or other branding activities at the expense of yours (and other similar groups' ) core mission?
The biggest challenge I’m facing in my chapter right now is finding a good and available finance director. The one I have is great, but has a lot of other activities in the community. I’ve had another express interest, but once again, he’s also very busy in the community.
In theory I could get along without having a finance director. Most of our events are at places where we reserve the space for free and people willingly buy their own food and drinks. However, for couple of our events, we did a 50-50 split where we put some money to our catering and other money to our organization.
As a result, I began the process of incorporation in the state of North Carolina. Incorporation was necessary so we could cash all the checks that we have and also start raising some money through PayPal. Also, our city requires all organizations, including nonprofits to have a business license and our foundations require 501c3 status or affiliation with one to grant money.
Another reason I’m working hard to get our finances together is that it’s imperative that we are able to continue to fund our sector. We may be non-profit driven, but official currency is the most popular means of exchanging goods and services. Our missions require us to make sacrifices to raise, spend and sometimes cut money.
We have organizations that compensate leaders at high levels, yet do hardly anything for their constituencies. Nick DiColandrea recently took a look at some of the sports related nonprofits in this vein. Other organizations do too much too soon and have to disband for lack of funds and support. Some go for years doing well, but due to dependence on one source of income, say a government grant or major benefactor, the loss of this source leads to their demise.
My next steps will be plotting an operations budget that’s sensible and in-line with what we can spend at this point. I also have a full board now and they will be getting out into the community and tapping into the grants and donors that exist to help fund our cause. I say grants and donors with an s because it takes more than one source of income to ensure long term financial stability. Along the way I’ll be upfront about who we are, why we’re here, what we do and why we need what we need.
So, YNPN family, how are you keeping your money right?
Leadership can be defined in many different ways. Some think individuals aren’t leaders until they have spent a lot of time in their sector and have proved themselves. Others believe people are born as leaders and being a leader is an instinct. What ever your definition we can all agree that leaders know their stuff, can motivate and engage their followers to be successful, have a knack for gaining followers, and know how to be successful.
As you are thinking about your own development, don’t forget to read, meet new people, and always rock it. As over simplified as these rules may be, they cover most leadership basics.
Reading new articles, research, and opinions of your work is important. Leaders should always keep their ideas fresh and innovative. Keeping up on your reading can give you an edge. It is easy to forget to read and stick to tasks. Scheduling regular time during the week for reading is a good way to keep it up.
Meet new people
Networking is nothing new, but essential. It is easy to slip into a comfort zone of gathering in your normal group at events. Step out and meet someone new at every event. Knowing the right person can get you further than anything else.
Always rock it
We learn as children it’s better to try your hardest and fail, than to never try at all. As a leader you should take on every task with vigor and confidence. If the tasks succeed your success will feel more exciting. If you fail, you will have a better chance to learn from your mistakes. Most importantly if you don’t run head first into the unknown you might miss out on great opportunities. Strong leaders know when to take risks, and always rock it.
Reading, networking and rocking are simple rules, but easy to remember. Stick to these three rules in parallel with your hard work and you won’t regret.
Are there other rules you use when leading? Are their tricks you have to leading well? Share and discuss what works for you.