Early on in my time as national director for YNPN, I was hanging out with a group of other, new-ish EDs and almost right away, talk turned to fundraising.
“I just have NO idea when I’m going to hear back from this guy,” one said. “He said there was a good chance we’d get funded this year but that was in February. IT’S AUGUST!!!”
“Yeah, I’m in the middle of writing this grant and I have no idea how much I’m supposed to ask for,” the other said. “I got a good vibe from the conversation but I just couldn’t figure out the actual ask. Does she want me to pitch $5000? Does she want me to pitch $500,000??? I literally have no idea.”
I remember staring back and forth between the two of them for awhile completely bewildered. Finally I offered what I thought was the obvious answer:
“Couldn’t you just call your program officer and ask her what’s up?”
They both looked at me for a moment, turned to each other, then burst out laughing. I remember they didn’t even bother to explain to me what was so funny.
Despite how it sounds, it wasn’t a mean girls moment. They weren’t actually laughing at me. They honestly thought I was making a joke. After a few months on the job, I figured out why they thought my suggestion was so absurd.
When I took the YNPN national director job, I was pretty new to fundraising. I’d worked on teams where I’d been deeply involved with fundraising but, to be honest, the only grants I’d ever written at that point were for our two major funders at the time--the Annie E. Casey Foundation and American Express. After a few months on the job, I had a much wider set of funder interactions to draw from, so I could understand a little better why my ED friends looked at me like I was an alien when I suggested treating their program officers the way you would any other colleague.
I feel fortunate, though, for my first experiences with Rafael Lopez from Casey and Richard Brown from AmEx, because they set the tone of partnership and mutual respect that grounds all the funding relationships YNPN seeks now and will seek for the life of our organization. Not only because it’s better for everyone involved, but because it’s the way that it’s actually supposed to be.
A few things that I’ve learned from those relationships that I carry with me:
- Great funding partners recognize that it’s their job to make grants. So they make it as clear and as simple as possible to do so.
- Great funding partners recognize that they can offer recommendations based on what else they are seeing in the field, but at the end of the day you know your organization and what your organization needs best.
- Great funding partners seek out ways to strengthen your work beyond writing a check. Offering meeting space or access to consultants or introductions to other like-minded funders can be just as valuable.
- Great funding partners make you feel like just that--a partner.
Over the past two years, our list of funding partners has been lucky enough to grow to slowly but surely include other amazing organizations like the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Packard Foundation, and the Newman’s Own Foundation, and the tone set by our early partners has held true.
We’re sending #nplove to these folks not only because of their financial generosity, but also because of the generosity of spirit that our partners have shown the network and the lessons they've taught us about how fulfilling relationships between funders and grantees can be.
YNPN National Board member Dan Blakemore shares a few of his favorite nonprofit news sources with us.
In this month of #nplove, we must take a few moments to recognize a few of the vital outlets who keep nonprofiteers and the rest of the world aware of the latest happenings in our sector.
Even if I were not a fundraiser, I would be interested in the overall trends in philanthropy and the stories of the people and institutions that support our collective work with their time, talent and treasure. The Chronicle offers a fantastic perspective on the sector, as in this piece:
I can always rely on Nonprofit Quarterly for very thoughtful analysis on how policies will impact the sector, like in this piece listing the 10 trends and 10 predictions that will affect the sector.
This brainchild of Jan Masaoka, the amazing CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits, always has articles that make me think, reconsider how I approach the work of making change, and laugh out loud. From Jan's Board Cafe column on board relations and management to Vu Le's Point of Vu column, each issue covers the full spectrum of non-profit management areas in an approachable and personable manner.
What are the nonprofit news sources that you #nplove?
Dan Blakemore is a passionate advocate for the fundraising profession and the non-profit sector overall. Dan is the Assistant Director of Development for Individual Giving at International House, a dynamic cross-cultural residential community for international graduate students in New York City. At I-House, Dan primarily works on annual fund appeals, the major and planned gift portfolios and all donor stewardship efforts.
He also writes a blog focused on fundraising and non-profit management issues, The Good Steward. Dan proudly serves on the boards of the Association of Prospect Researchers for Advancement of Greater New York and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. He is also an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York. When not fundraising, you can find Dan enjoying a good book, looking for a new recipe to try or continuing to trace his family history.
This blog post almost didn't get written, for all of the usual reasons blog posts don't get written: no time to focus, other projects that felt more pressing, and a need to sleep and eat every now and then. I was running behind on life, not to mention my YNPN responsibilities, and I didn't know how I would get it all done.
But if I'm honest with myself and with you, another reason this post almost didn't get written is because I was scared. Let me back up and tell you why.
When I found out that Random Acts of Kindness Week would oh-so-serendipitously overlap with Valentine's Day, I knew that I needed to figure out some way to incorporate it into YNPN's #nplove content for the month (a nonprofit communicator never sleeps, y'all). I decided it would be fun to send valentines to a few organizations and people I really admire to acknowledge the fantastic work they do. Who doesn't love a handwritten note? Also, it was an excuse to go to Paper Source.
You can always count on Paper Source for a good pun.
And then I got busy. Really busy. And before I knew it, it was the evening of the day I had planned to send the cards so they would arrive in time for Valentine's Day, and I hadn't even thought about what I was going to write.
So I started to talk myself out of it. Here's a list of the reasons why I told myself this was a bad idea:
Reason: "Well, it won't arrive in time for V-Day and people will be confused."
Reality: People know how calendars and the USPS work. Being in the vicinity of Valentine's Day would be good enough. This is one of those times when it's the thought that counts.
Reason: "They don't know who I am, what do they care that I think they're awesome?"
Reality: One of the reasons I love these folks is that they are so thoughtful and audience-focused in everything they do. They may not know who I am, but I bet it will make their day to hear about why their work matters to someone.
Reason: "Uhh, isn't a little weird to just tell someone that they're cool?"
Reality: Of all the silly reasons I came up with not to do this, this one might be the most silly and a little bit sad. When did it become weird or uncool to tell someone else that you think they're pretty stinkin' great? (No, that's literally what the card said.)
It was around then that I realized I was a little bit scared to do this. I was scared to step out and acknowledge the importance of someone else's work in my life because I was too busy to do it at exactly the right time, because I felt I wasn't significant enough for my opinion to matter, and because I thought it might be weird. All of those reasons are pretty stinkin' bad.
One of the best parts of managing YNPN's social media accounts this month has been seeing all of the #nplove tweets and comments. But I also know that there are a lot more people out there who are feeling the love but haven't shared yet, maybe for some of the reasons I was scared to do so. This post is for all of you.
Yep, that's a Johnny Cash stamp. Who's uncool now? Still me? Ok.
So I want to know: Whose work do you think deserves a valentine, even if it's a virtual one?
Jamie Smith is the Launchpad Communications Fellow for YNPN. In addition to her work for YNPN, she works with nonprofit organizations to amplify their impact with clear and compelling communications. As a freelance writer and content strategist, she loves helping organizations across the nonprofit sector connect with their supporters.
YNPN National Board member Jessie Singer counts the many ways she loves YNPN.
Roses are red, violets are blue, I love YNPN and you should too!
In all honesty, YNPN is the place where I feel like I truly belong and that I'm amongst the most inspiring young nonprofit professionals that are moving mountains across the country.
Every time I am lacking motivation, need a boost of adrenaline or have lost my passion for my work, I can immediately find a YNPN friend and remember why I dedicate my life to the nonprofit sector.
YNPN is truly a place for me, to be who I really am: an extremely motivated, passionate, career-focused, young, nonprofit professional, who wants to make a REAL difference in the world… not just in my nonprofit, not just in my community, but in the WORLD! (Yes, I dream BIG!)
YNPN is comprised of individuals across the United States (and I hear the latest is that we’ve started to take over, I mean join forces, with our Canadian friends) who live, work and breathe mission-based work. Not all of us spend our day jobs working in the nonprofit sector, but at the end of the day we all share a passion for helping others.
This network is the place where we can take time to professionally develop our own skills to be better individuals. Through social events we network with one another and through educational seminars we hone in on our skills to ensure that our network is a force to be reckoned with.
Jessie Singer is the Executive Director for the American Lung Association in California – San Diego. Jessie is originally from the suburbs of Chicago where she left for the hot, hot, hot weather in Tucson, AZ to become a University of Arizona Wildcat before moving to Phoenix to start her professional career.
After 10 years in the heat, Jessie moved to San Diego in 2012 to work on improving the air quality and lung health in Southern California. Jessie is an active member of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (ynpn.org) serving on the YNPN National and San Diego Boards. Thanks to the #nplove and support of YNPN, Jessie is a nonprofiteer for life & is proud to be associated with her colleagues across the country.
This weekend our National Board and Launchpad Fellows had the opportunity to come together from across the country and meet in person to discuss what's next for YNPN in 2014.
These retreat opportunities are so special and so important to the work that we do. YNPN is incredibly grateful for the support of the Denver Foundation, which hosted our most recent retreat; the Ford Foundation, which hosted our January 2013 retreat in New York; and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which regularly opens up its Baltimore office to the YNPN team.
The support we receive from these organizations is not just logistical and financial. Most importantly, we are grateful for their enthusiastic support of our mission and the work that we do. Thank you to the Denver Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for your #nplove!
YNPN Twin Cities member Dania Toscano Miwa talks about why she's never gonna give up the nonprofit sector.
Seriously, what’s not to love? Organizations working to make social change, fix big hairy problems and impact change, both locally and globally. Staff who dedicate their careers and purpose to a mission and to improve our world.
Plus, of course, our volunteers and supporters, both in and out of the boardroom, who give away their time, talent and resources in support of what we do. It all adds up to a commitment, a values statement, an ideal.
Again I say, what’s not to love?
For me, growing up with two parents working for nonprofits, I never really even thought about it. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to devote my career to the betterment of the nonprofit sector.” It wasn’t a conscious choice. I found myself naturally gravitating to organizations and mission driven work. I wanted to “do something” and work for a place that cared about my values and value.
I do remember bombing a job interview at a bank. I knew it was over when I was told the volunteer section of my resume was of no value to this institution, and I would be best to remove it from my resume. That would have eliminated almost all of my practical work experience, which I had gained from volunteering in offices at various organizations in high school and college.
What was left was my job at a doggy day-care. If I had taken that advice, I would have “expert poo scooper” and “positive reinforcement training assistant” as the sum total of my work experience. (Although I have to say the positive reinforcement dog training actually does have practical use in certain nonprofit environments as well, but I digress.)
Another reason I love this sector is the information-generous nature of the sector and its people. Most of the time when I’m working through a challenge with an organization, I can pick up the phone and chat with a colleague who has probably dealt with a similar issue and is willing to help troubleshoot.
This spirit of generosity permeates the sector. For example, there are free superb resources available here in Minnesota, such as the Principals & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence. In addition, there are the numerous national resource organizations such as BoardSource, with tons of resources dedicated to training effective board members, and CharityChannel, a great peer-to-peer networking site for fundraising professionals, plus a publishing arm. Idealist is especially useful to young professionals for professional skill building.
Many “helper organizations” are active in my region with the sole purpose and mission to guide, educate, support and train nonprofit organizations. In Minnesota, we have an extraordinarily strong Nonprofit state association, The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Additionally, there are such organizations as the Nonprofit Assistance Fund, MACC Commonwealth, MAP for Nonprofits, Charities Review Council, Nonprofit Resources Collaborative and more. These organizations and many more devote themselves to the betterment of the sector and its people and to continuously help organizations become more efficient, effective and maximize their impact.
I have worked, volunteered and supported organizations for my entire career and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I plan to stay connected to the nonprofit sector for the entirety of my career and I know many of my colleagues have pledged the same. Now if that’s not love and devotion, I don’t know what is!
Dania Toscano Miwa is the Managing Principal and co-founder of Toscano Advisors, a three-year old consulting firm specializing in strategy, fundraising, executive recruiting and leadership development for nonprofit organizations.
She has more than ten years of experience working with/for nonprofits as diverse as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, OTA-Pollen, The Northside Achievement Zone, The International Wolf Center, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Animal Humane Society, the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the Regional Parks Foundation. She is co-author and editor of the Toscano Advisors blog.
Dania is a member of the Boards of Directors of Azul, the Minnesota Zoo’s young professional board and chair of the governance committee, and on the board of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, where she is the co-chair of the development and outreach committee. She was formerly on the board of directors of her local YNPN chapter from 2009-10.